A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence opens Friday at a/perture cinema

by Mark Burger

“Absurd” is the word in writer/director Roy Andersson’s A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (original title: En duva satt pa en gren och funderade pa tillvaron), a poker-faced meditation on everyday life – and sometimes death – deeply entrenched in the absurdist style of comedy.This is familiar screen territory for Andersson, who specializes in such social, cultural and political mockery, as he wends his way through modern-day Sweden, dropping in on various characters as they go about their daily lives, observing (and sometimes reacting to) the goings-on around them.The principal characters are a pair of glum novelty salesmen played by Holger Andersson and Nisse Vestblom, both of whom made their screen debuts in Roy Andersson’s You, the Living (2007), who shuffle in and out of the proceedings trying to make sense of everything. (No mean feat, rest assured.)The film boasts a distinctly European sensibility that recalls the wackier works of Marco Ferreri (Don’t Touch the White Woman, Bye Bye Monkey) – although this might be something that Wes Anderson or the Coen Brothers might have taken a crack at. Darren Aronofsky and Birdman Oscar winner Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu are credited as “presenters,” which makes sense given their work. The film, which follows a linear trajectory only very loosely, is sly and wry, but also moves at an intentionally plodding pace that, despite the vignette format, can be trying to an audience’s patience. Not surprisingly, symbolism abounds – dealt out nimbly at first, heavier later. (In Swedish with English subtitles)– A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence opens Friday at a/perture cinema, Winston-Salem Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92 (92.3 FM).