Dark Swedish humor takes wing in 'Pigeon' film at Venice

Tue Sep 2, 2014 1:35pm EDT
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By Michael Roddy

VENICE (Reuters) - In Swedish filmmaker Roy Andersson's offbeat film "A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence", shown at the Venice Film Festival on Tuesday, a businessman about to shoot himself in a posh office takes a last call on his mobile phone.

"I'm happy to hear you're doing fine," he says to the unidentified and unheard caller. In one of the running gags of this laconic but droll movie, the distraught man is not clearly heard and has to repeat the platitude.

Andersson, one of Sweden's most successful filmmakers since Ingmar Bergman, and the creator of many often hilarious television commercials, does not do superficial or light.

His Venice film, which is in contention for the festival's top Golden Lion award, takes its name from a bird that can be seen sitting on the end of a leafless tree branch in winter in a painting by the 16th-century Dutch painter Pieter Bruegel.

That information will not help unravel the meaning of the seemingly only barely related vignettes that Andersson has woven into a feature film.

Most of them are shot from fixed camera positions held for the duration of the scene, in the style of Charlie Chaplin, who is one of Andersson's cinema heroes, and which could take a month or longer to prepare and film, he said.

"You asked me what is it about," Andersson said in response to a question at a press conference. "It's about our life, it's about us, this movie," he said, which was the closest he came to answering the question.

"I have been involved, and made movies, with storytelling before but now, today, I don't think it's very interesting, it's boring for me to look at cinema with stories, with complications and it comes out happy in the final scenes," he added.   Continued...

Director Roy Andersson poses during the photo call for the movie "A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence" at the 71st Venice Film Festival September 2, 2014. REUTERS/Tony Gentile