SCREEN GRAB | A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence

Andersson’s frames encourage us to look deeper, further, more searchingly into his sallow sets and his cryptic film. By Louis Rogers

Roy Andersson’s camera has a long gaze. Its eye in A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence reaches far back, through doors and windows, across hills and skylines. A rubber mask, a radiator or a prawn sandwich in the foreground has the same crisp detail as a person in the next room, snow falling in the street outside or a tower block on the distant horizon. The deadpan vignettes that make up the film are oblique and often enigmatic: the deep focus of Andersson’s shots encourage us to look deeper, further, more searchingly into his sallow sets and his cryptic film. 

There’s something uncanny about the rectangular frames of the windows and doors that structure this film: they are like second screens, mimicking our own. As secondary and tertiary narratives unfold behind them, we might be reminded that film, in the material sense, is something you see through rather than seeing directly: a thin strip of sensitised material that captures and mediates appearances. Andersson doesn’t present easy answers or meanings on the surface of A Pigeon, but encourages his viewers to see through, and think with, its compelling and recalcitrant scenes.

There are unique possibilities in this kind of transitional, mediated thinking. In one of the film’s vanishingly rare hopeful moments, one character apologises to another through the rectangular aperture of a letterbox. It’s awkward and comic, but also poignant: the letterbox is, after all, what permits, not obstructs, the reconciliation. 

 

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence is available to stream as part of TANK’s season SCULPTING IN TIME. Subscribe for just £3 a month for access to 40+ films throughout the year.