Swedish master Roy Andersson (Songs from the Second Floor) returns with this absurdist, surrealistic and shocking pitch-black comedy, which moves freely from nightmare to fantasy to hilariously deadpan humour as it muses on man’s perpetual inhumanity to man.

Masters

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence

Roy Andersson

The most distinctive Swedish filmmaker since Ingmar Bergman, Roy Andersson has influenced the work of filmmakers as different as Ruben Östlund and Finland's Dome Karukoski — both of whom also have features in this year's Festival. Andersson's new film, the third part of a trilogy that began with Songs from the Second Floor and continued with You, the Living, demonstrates exactly why his influence is so powerful and pervasive. Filmmakers a quarter his age wouldn't venture the risks he takes here, and his skill and craft rival those of the great masters.

A mixture of absurdist, hilariously deadpan humour, shock, and utter horror. A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence presents a series of darkly comic vignettes organized around two narrative strands. In one, two hapless novelty salesmen wander around town trying to sell their inventory of vampire fangs and rubber masks, all the while bickering like an old married couple; in the other, Charles XII, Sweden's most bellicose king, reappears in modern times to carry on his series of disastrous defeats. Shifting between nightmare, fantasy, reverie, and even an impromptu musical number, the film culminates with a blistering indictment of what Andersson presents as humanity's stunning lack of empathy.

Though he's been called a slapstick Bergman and compared to Fellini, Andersson is closest to Luis Bunuel in both his surrealist flourishes and the rage — as well as the genuine empathy and sorrow — that underlies his twisted humour. Andersson has said that A Pigeon was heavily influenced by Dostoevsky and, like the work of the Russian master, his film is not for the faint of heart. It is an extremely provocative and very disturbing critique of our times.

STEVE GRAVESTOCK

Screenings

Fri Sep 05

Scotiabank 2

Industry
12:00pm
Mon Sep 08

TIFF Bell Lightbox 2

Regular
7:15pm
Wed Sep 10

Scotiabank 14

Industry
1:45pm
Wed Sep 10

Scotiabank 2

Regular
5:15pm
Sat Sep 13

TIFF Bell Lightbox 2

Regular
3:15pm