Film review of the 2014 Swedish comedy drama about two hapless travelling salesmen who unwittingly embark on a tour of the human condition as they peddle their goods. Directed by Roy Andersson.
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Director: Roy Andersson. Roy Andersson Filmproduktion AB. (12a).
Cast & credits
Producers: Pernilla Sandström.
Writer: Roy Andersson.
Camera: István Borbás, Gergely Pálos.
Music: Hanni Jazzar, Gorm Sundberg.
Nisse Vestblom, Holger Andersson, Charlotta Larsson, Viktor Gyllenberg, Lottie Tornros.
A couple of small-time, down on their luck salesmen (Vestblom, Andersson) ply their wares up and down the length of Sweden and embark on a tour of the human condition as they attempt the ‘big sale’.
Seeing as Tim Burton has, for some time, been producing films that either showcase his other half Helena Bonham-Carter or feature a cliched, limp catalogue of carefully orchestrated ‘weirdness’ in glitteringly expensive surroundings, geared it seems to earning as much money as possible, an oddity vacuum has developed in international cinema.
It is not surprising then that other odd-bod directors have jumped at the chance to amuse audiences with their own skewed take on the human condition.
Swede Andersson is one such filmmaker. “The Pigeon Film” (as my local film club have christened it, for sheer speed of referring to it if nothing else) is as genuinely, beautifully bonkers, thoughtful and off beat as anything Burton could possibly hope to make.
The subtitle of the film is ‘The final part in a trilogy about being human’. Andersson’s world is recognisably similar to ours in as much that there are humans and they talk to each other and inhabit similar roles to us, but he neatly inverts and perverts them. Everyone has alabaster white skin, they shuffle around like zombies, exchanges are slow and drawn out.
Human behaviour is imploded and reduced to moments where hardly anything appears to happen at all. Like the pigeon in Bruegel’s The Hunter’s In the Snow Andersson postulates is musing on the people below, our attention is concentrated and we are allowed time to reflect on the action before us, looking at ‘what we are actually doing’, as Andersson puts it. (The first shot, fittingly, has a stuffed pigeon on a branch as part of a natural history museum exhibition).
This might be why in every shot there is some sort of action going on in through an open door in the background – Andersson captures everything associated with the main action he is filming, no matter how inconsequential it may seem.
The film itself has the look of a painting. The digital photography is a revelation, capturing with clarity and crispness the deliberately bland, beige colour scheme. The film has a high definition feel to it; you can see the pattern of wallpaper, the fibres on fabrics and the warp and weft of carpets.
The comedy is about as dry as you could possibly get, a mordantly, bluntly amusing look at life, death, love and sex and the complications that can ensue with any aspect of the human state.
A man pops his clogs after ordering food and a pint in a restaurant, but what is of concern to the bystanders is what do they do with the food which hasn’t been consumed? Simple, call it out and see if someone will have it for free.
Two salesmen struggle to meet their targets and slowly come around to discussing why this might be, not once realising their difficulties might lie with them, humourless and dour people trying to flag joke novelty gifts.
Pigeon is a slow film you’ll need to retard your mind to enjoy, but the comedy and social observation do work in their own geriatric way.
Watch the official trailer.