The film opens with three reflections on death, but otherwise doesn't follow much of a storyline. There are recurring characters, and the ones we see most frequently are salesmen Jonathan and Sam who return again and again in a rondo-like manner constantly attempting to sell humorous joke products with deadpan faces and equally lifeless delivery in their assurance that their "Uncle One-Tooth" is guaranteed fun.
The scenes range from pedantic to absurd, but are well-written, droll, and hilarious. Sometimes you laugh at how ridiculous it is, and others you can't help but cringe a little at how spot on the awkwardness is. There are random scenes where bar patrons burst into song, and others when Charles XII bursts into a modern bar and chases out the women of the establishment whilst brandishing a sword. Pigeon drifts along, feeling at times like a weirdly familiar purgatorial dream or as if you're sitting in a painting come to life. Although it helps to have a grasp of Swedish history, it's not entirely necessary to have context to enjoy or to relate to the human condition inherent.
There's a hint of the relentless banality of life, and if we wince at some of the tableaux, it's mostly because it thinly disguises some of the little deaths we experience daily, even when we assure each other constantly how "fine" we are. Andersson cleverly writes what could be a relentless tragic and brutal reflection into a series of deadpan, sadly funny, and funnily sad moments. It well deserves the Golden Lion for picture from the Venice Film Festival even if for nothing else but to show us how absurd life is, even if we're not salesmen making a living hawking fake vampire teeth.
On another note, my often illustrator and always talented artist Jeremiah Moon has started sharing more of his illustrations on his tumblr here.