Swedish helmer Roy Andersson received the Visionary Award at the Stockholm Film Festival on Nov. 9, and his latest film, “A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence,” wwhich won the Golden Lion at Venice in September, will premiere in Sweden on Nov. 12. Magnolia Pictures recently picked up U.S. rights to Andersson’s absurdist drama, which marks the third part in the “Living” trilogy after his 2000 film “Songs From the Second Floor” and 2007’s “You, the Living.” Jon Asp talked to the director at the Stockholm festival.
Variety: Most people say that a film by Roy Andersson does not resemble any other film. How would you describe a Roy Andersson film?
Andersson: Simplicity with accuracy, which gives complexity.
Variety: Explain “Pigeon” in a few words.
Andersson: The film demonstrates merely a fraction what is means to be a human, and in that fraction recalls the understanding of how infinite and inexhaustible our existence is.
Variety: Many people believe “Pigeon” is more accessible than the two first parts of the trilogy. Is that a deliberate effort?
Andersson: It wasn’t planned that way. But the new digital technique (“Pigeon” is the first feature Andersson has shot digitally) gives a brighter and clearer visual quality. In other words, the film is less somber.
Variety: Among previous laureates of the Stockholm Visionary Award are Wes Anderson, Wong-Kar Wai and Peter Greenaway. You are the first Scandi recipient. Where are the visions in the film world today?
Andersson: Hopefully in a future generation of filmmakers.
Variety: Do you find it sad that contemporary filmmakers do not take further inspiration from painting?
Andersson: I find it very depressing. That is probably why cinema today is so uninteresting. The imagery is so scant. And that is, in turn, due to economics; there’s neither time nor money to be more rigorous. Still, I believe it is very sad that so few filmmakers are ready to nurture the visual elements of filmmaking today, even if it’s expensive and time-consuming. It took me four years of full time work to complete this film.
Variety: “Pigeon” is the first of your features to secure a theatrical release in the U.S. It will be presented next year, and then by two other recipients of Stockholm’s Visionary Award, Darren Aronofsky and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, the latter of whom also competed at Venice this year with a technically lauded film. Are you honored having this recognition from lauded Hollywood directors of today?
Andersson: Yes, in a way. I believe Inarritu is a very intelligent filmmaker, serious and compassionate.
Variety: To many Americans, Swedish film is traditionally associated with Ingmar Bergman. You come from a generation that has often criticized Bergman. Why don’t you like his films?
Andersson: I believe most of them are too (over)written, even if in some of his films comprise evocative moments.
Variety: During your 25 years of absence from feature filmmaking, you established yourself, I would say, as one of the most original commercials directors in the world. How much has that career influenced the look and the concept of the trilogy?
Andersson: A great deal. It lies in the fact that I make commercials with the same carefulness and accuracy (with which I make features). I believe in patience and I also have that patience.
Pictured above from left: Stockholm Festival director Git Scheynius, helmers Pascale Ferran (“Bird People”), July Jung (“A Girl at My Door”), Roy Andersson, Celine Sciamma (“Girlhood”), Bitte Andersson (“Dyke Hard”), Guy Myhill (“The Goob”) and program director George Ivanov.