VENICE (Reuters) - Swedish filmmaker Roy Andersson got his start in feature films with “A Swedish Love Story” (1970), so his film “A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence” that won the top Venice Film Festival award on Saturday suggests he has come a long way.
“You know, I started my career with realism in storytelling but after 15 years I was so tired of this storytelling and realism that I found what I call abstraction,” the 71-year-old director told Reuters in an interview before the awards.
“I call it fragments from existence, from life. It’s fragments about us living beings.”
Andersson, whose winning film is part of a trilogy that he says may eventually have a fourth part, is nothing if not unconventional.
When he got tired of making films with normal plots, to support himself, and raise funds for more experimental work, he took up making Swedish television commercials that display a quirky, sometimes macabre sense of humor.
One of them, showing people in business suits bailing out of an airliner, while the rest of the passengers watch in surprise, turns out to be an advertisement for a bank.
His more recent films have won a cult following in Europe for their quirky, often dark sense of humor - which pretty much reflects the outlook of their creator.
“I mean, none of us will have a happy end in our life,” he said.
“It’s a tragedy, to be honest, but meanwhile up to that moment you have to try to be happy and survive with a little meaning... Life is beautiful but it’s also tragic because of the end which nobody else can avoid.”
Andersson’s winning film begins with three brief encounters with death, which suggests he might be following in the footsteps of his late compatriot Ingmar Bergman but while Andersson admires Bergman, he said he had lacked a sense of humor.
Andersson definitely has one. In one of the encounters, a man dies from the stress of trying to pull a wine cork out of a bottle but his wife who is in the kitchen cannot hear him fall to the floor because she is running a loud mixing machine.
In another of the episodes, a man has fallen dead at the food counter of a ferry boat and one of the big preoccupations of the crew assembled around him is what to do with the meal, and the beer, for which he has paid.
Two of the recurring characters in the film are a pair of sad-sack traveling salesmen selling shopworn novelty items including vampire fangs and a fright mask.
Their clients stiff them for payments and their supplier is chasing them for money, but they keep up the pretence that their products make life entertaining.
A resemblance to the main characters Vladimir and Estragon, in the late avant-garde Irish playwright Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” is purely intentional, Andersson said.
“It is for me a big source of inspiration. It’s very clear, because it’s so fantastic with ‘Waiting for Godot’ because I think it’s three hours to play that in the theater and they are talking nonsense almost all the time and it is still interesting.
“I can really like that. It’s a true description of a human being.”
Editing by Michael Roddy and Lisa Shumaker