It is one of the superficial refrains that comes back again and again, the way people repeatedly talk on the phone speaking the same phrase: "I'm happy to hear you're fine." Andersson's first film since 2007's You, the Living, A Pigeon Sat on a Branch took a full four years to make, with each scene requiring a month of preparation and the effort is obvious. Everything is meticulously staged. A painterly eye and a motionless camera gives the film the feel of a tableau vivant. Backdrops are painted in photo-realistic lighting and the composition of the shots are absolutely masterly. A small red button on the wall will catch the eye and suggest a story of its own and the colour palette of the film is all putty brown and hospice green. Andersson populates the film with strangely bloodless creatures - those joke vampire fangs are doubly worthless - who wear expression of stupefied anxiety. Their face almost seems painted on. When Sam complains that Jonathan walks like a zombie, it could be said that almost everybody in the film does.
Yet, at the same time an aching sense of loss pervades the film. An old patron of a bar recalls the bar in 1943, when it was Limping Lotta's and they sang drinking songs. Another magnificent set piece involves another bar where the army of Charles XII marches past the window and the stunned patrons receive a visit from the King himself, who indirectly tries to pick up the barman. The scene almost capsizes the film, it is so magnificently conceived and executed. Later the tattered remains of the army retreat, the exiled women return as wailing war widows and the King finds the bathroom occupied. Capsule-like moments occur throughout A Pigeon Sat on a Branch: people wait at bus stops; a mother plays with her giggling baby and someone thinks that it is Thursday when it's really Wednesday. As Sam and Jonathan quarrel and then make up again, there is the sensation that the film could end almost anywhere and still make perfect sense.
The full Glasgow Film Festival 2015 programme, ticketing details and more can be viewed at glasgowfilm.org.
John Bleasdale | @drjonty