A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (2014)

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Released 6-Jul-2016

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Black Comedy None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2014
Running Time 96:00
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Roy Andersson

Madman Entertainment

Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music None Given

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Swedish Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Swedish Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence is the third and final film in a trilogy of absurdist black comedies from Swedish director Roy Andersson. The first two films Songs from the Second Floor and You, the Living were collections of surreal vignettes on the bleaker side of life and Pigeon is no exception. It was the winner of the Golden Lion for Best Film at the Venice Film Festival.

It takes a special sort of mood and a special sort of humour to appreciate Andersson's films. They usually consist of dozens of unrelated short scenes with dialogue that is frequently repetitious and inane. Andersson likes to keep his camera dead still whilst his actors often occupy tableau- like positions.

Pigeon has no particular plot. It has a series of characters who might appear in one or more scenes sometimes just as people in the background. The only constant is two of the gloomiest travelling salesman in history. Their job is to sell humorous products. They have only three - extra long vampire teeth, a joke laughing bag and "Uncle One Tooth" a frighteningly unfunny old man mask. They are the best of friends except that one cannot help often lapsing into tears and melancholy while the other calls him a crybaby.

Andersson frequently does very little in his scenes and yet some of them are unforgettable. In You, the Living there was a scene of a newly married couple in their hotel room which became a train carriage stopping at a station of well-wishers. This film is equally surreal in parts. Properly enjoyed, the viewer must first adapt to the pace and dialogue which is Samuel Beckett-like in its celebration of the sense of nothingness.

As said, some scenes are unforgettable.

A sleepy diner playing rockabilly at the edges of town is upended when visited by a horde of 18th-century soldiers from the Swedish army led by King Charles XII who stops for a glass of water. We see the diner again as the troops returned from a thrashing at the hands of the Russians at the Battle of Potlava. Little stories are being played out at the edges of the screen and Andersson allows the moments to linger.

A bar where an old man drinks is shown in the 1940s with a musical number featuring an eccentric hostess with one heel taller than the other. A woman calmly talks on the phone about mundane things whilst a monkey (obviously animatronic) strapped to a frame is given electric shocks. In the most dramatic and controversial scene, which refers directly to the exploits of a Swedish mining company, a group of slaves are lead into to a giant brass cylinder covered in trumpet like objects. The area below the cylinder is lit and it rotates emitting a strange music which is seen to be for the benefit of a group of old white people.

This is a film that could put you off within minutes or constantly entertain you with the most bleak comedy about the meaningless of existence. Some will find it hilarious and very moving whilst others will see it as deeply depressing. It does have the power to linger long in the memory. A masterpiece or rubbish - you decide...

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Transfer Quality


Pigeon was shot using the Red Epic high-definition digital camera. This transfer is consistent with the original 1.66:1 cinema presentation. It is 169 enhanced.

It is difficult to comment on the quality of the transfer.

The film is highly stylised in that all the indoor scenes and many of the outdoor scenes feature a colour palette that ranges between "old persons home" and "1960s Russian State building". In other words it is intentionally drab and ugly.

The flesh tones often exude an unhealthy look of somewhere between life and death and the costumes are equally nondescriptive. Of course, this is enormously important for the movie which suggest the most drab of possible existence awaits all of us.

It is a good transfer for what it is but don't go using it to show off your new 4K television.

There are subtitles in English.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


Pigeon features two Swedish soundtracks. One is a 5.1 surround track running at 448 Kb/s and the other a 2.0 track running at 224 Kb/s. Both adequately convey the film.

Andersson's use of sound is very subtle, sometimes non-existent, and there is at times an ambiance that is conveyed by the surround sound. The sub woofer is not called upon very often.

The dialogue is clearly rendered.

The recurring music for the film is a waltz theme that conveys the merry-go-round like absurdity of existence. There is other music as well including different versions of the Battle Hymn of the Republic.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


You, the Living had some decent extras including a commentary track. Unfortunately, this is a bare-bones release which is a pity. It would have been nice to have seen a summary of the three films.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

There is a French DVD and Blu-ray release of this title which has some extras but I can't find out whether it has subtitles for English speakers. Buy local.


Pigeon is, like all Andersson's films, not for the impatient and features his unmistakable absurdist style. It is a challenge and also a remarkable work. Watch it in the wrong mood and it will drive you to despair. The DVD is well presented bearing in mind the intentionally drab nature of the environments.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Wednesday, July 20, 2016
Review Equipment
DVDCambridge Audio 752BD All Region Blu-ray, using HDMI output
DisplayJVC DLX 700 with 4K e-shift on 140" Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationPioneer SC -LX 78K 9.2 Channel
SpeakersAaron ATS-5 7.1

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