Netflix Recommendation: ‘A Pigeon Sat On A Branch’ Is Existential Gold





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Posted July 20, 2016 by

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Life is nothing but a series of small moments that connect together to create a larger picture, and Roy Andersson depicts this beautifully in the third installment of his “living” trilogy (‘Songs From the Second Floor‘ and ‘You, the Living‘ being the first two) ‘A Pigeon Sat On A Branch…’. Jonathan and Sam are traveling novelty items salesmen that are doing everything they can to just make it to the next day. They tell everyone they’re in the entertainment business and that their job is to make people happy, but you wouldn’t know it by their demeanor. Whenever they interest someone enough to get asked what they’re selling, they bring out a set of long-fanged vampire teeth, a laughing bag, and a monster mask they call ‘Uncle One-Tooth’. Sales have dipped recently and it isn’t helping that the people that have purchased their product haven’t given them any money for them yet.


While Jonathan and Sam are the main characters of this film, Andersson also allows us to temporarily enter into the lives of other minor characters as they go through their own trials and tribulations. The cinematography in this movie is so beautiful and used in creative ways by never truly focusing on one character; instead using a macro shot that keeps all of the players in the frame. When you’re watching two characters have a conversation, a completely different story is happening just off in the background; often bringing back characters that were used in earlier scenes (for example, a tap dance instructor who is in love with one of her students realizes he doesn’t feel the same way while sitting in a restaurant. The whole time that’s happening, we’re actually meant to be focusing on an older gentleman standing outside the window wondering if he’s early or late for a meeting at the restaurant and whether or not he has the right day and time at all).

While having a ‘plot’ in the traditional sense is not at play here, Andersson is making movie poetry as he weaves us in and out of scenes that are, for the most part, self-contained. Philosophical musings, Jonathan listening to a song about meeting your parents in Heaven and struggling with the fact that he doesn’t want to do that, finally answering the question, ‘Would anyone take a dead body for a free beer and a sandwich?’, and a woman getting a rock out of her shoe. From the very beginning of this Swedish comedy/drama, you understand that what you’re in store for is not going to be conventional in any way, but it will be interesting. It’s an exciting form of filmmaking that mixes genres, characters, and time periods to tell a complete story.

‘A Pigeon Sat On A Branch…’ is now streaming on Netflix and I insist that you check it out immediately. This is one of those films you can watch over-and-over and continue to find something you missed the last time through.





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