A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence

pigeon muralYeah that’s right, I went to see a movie with that title! What’s more, unbeknownst to me, it was the third in a trilogy of which I had obviously missed the first two. And I convinced my husband to come with me – he of the rolling eyes at anything that’s pretentious and, let’s face it, assuredly depressing. On the upside, it was playing at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, that hallowed hall of film in Toronto, and my husband’s first visit there. So we and, let’s say, 30 others settled in for an evening of some kind of entertainment.

And that, it was – dark, no, black humour, sad people, colourless settings with nary an adornment in sight. Really a series of surreal vignettes depicting the struggle of existence, its misery and its often ignominious end. Very Swedish. Two characters appear in a number of the vignettes although not in all of them. They are two hapless middle-aged men who are living in some kind of hostel/institution – obviously for those down on their luck. They are salesmen trying to peddle gag items because, as they desolately repeat to their unwilling prospects, “We like to help people have fun.”

Clearly they were not having any, and really neither were we. It had been a long time since we paid money and devoted a couple of hours to a bleak, challenging film whose message was ambiguous at best. We’re not blockbuster people and we do like think pieces. But Ingmar Bergman has not been on our must-see list for a long time. Our experience has been like that of most people in our age group and family situation. We sought out art house films in our youth then as soon as children came into our lives it was comedies or movies with easily decipherable plots for our limited outings and attention spans.

But now that the children are adults and we can pursue those arty films once again, how much do we want to? Based on what I’ve already said about “A Pigeon” it’s probably not a go-to film for many people – even for those who love ‘alternative’ themes. And yet, and yet, we discussed this movie, its meaning and our interpretation for quite a while. Certainly longer than any other recent discussion we’d had about a movie. Plus when we recounted one of the movie’s more amusing vignettes to friends over dinner, they howled with laughter. Maybe it was in the re-telling or because of the wine but it made for a good ‘dining-out’ story.

So, try the quirky movies and consider them experiences that you can argue about or at least discuss animatedly. If nothing else they’ll take you to places that you may not have visited in a long while and perhaps help you reflect on existence.

– Miria Ioannou
Mural by Mr. Super A in Goes, Netherlands. Photo courtesy @GoogleStreetArt.

This article can be found in GOING OUT in the section What We’re Seeing.

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