Here is a review of the second of Eureka Entertainment’s two upcoming releases from Pier Paolo Pasolin, a great piece of Arthouse cinema whch I think anyone who’s after something strange and different can enjoy!
HCF REWIND NO.67. PIGSTY AKA PORCILE [Italy, 1969]
AVAILABLE ON R2 DVD 23rd July : from Eureka Entertainment ‘Masters Of Cinema’
RUNNING TIME: 99 mins
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Two parallel stories which alternate with each other. In one, a young man wanders in a volcanic landscape sometime in the past. He’s very hungry, and a butterfly and a snake refuse to satisfy his hunger. When he encounters a soldier, he fights and kills him, after which he eats him. Now a cannibal, he teams up with a thug to ravage the countryside. In the other story, set in 1960’s Germany, Mr Klotz is a German industrialist burdened with a son, Julian, who is less and less interested in spending time with his fiancée Ida and seems very distant and preoccupied. He confesses to Ida that he has a terrible secret, but can’t tell her what it is. Meanwhile his father discovers that his competitor Herdhitze is actually an old school friend and a war criminal…….
I don’t think you have to entirely understand a film to enjoy it. Sometimes it’s nice to just let it just wash all over you, to experience and not think so much. Plenty of time to think later, and of course plenty of time to revisit to! Pigsty is a film in which I certainly didn’t ‘get’ a great deal of it, and yet I thoroughly enjoyed as a striking piece of rather experimental cinema. I say ‘experimental’, because it’s like no Hollywood blockbuster, yet of course filmmakers like Jean-Luc Godard and Pier Paolo Pasolini spent most of their careers experimenting and pushing the boundaries of what a ‘normal’ film could be. These days, there are a few directors like Lars Von Trier who are doing similar things, but they seem to be drowned out by the often bland normality of commercial cinema. What a wonderful time the 60’s and 70’s were, where filmmakers felt the freedom to do whatever they wanted and the results were often shown widely in picture houses throughout the world. Nowadays, it’s mainly multiplexes and your’ normal’ commercial films; I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve wanted to see something and none of my two locals cinemas are showing it!
Pigsty begins with the reading of a plaque by a narrator, the words being obscure and to be honest far too intellectual for the first few seconds of a film, then continues with the titles over lots of shots of pigs in a pigsty, the filthy, grunting but somewhat cute animals given rather loving close-ups. Well, it makes sense considering the title of the film I suppose, though for a long time afterwards you may wonder at its significance. The movie then proceeds into its two stories, and really there seems to be very little link between the two except a minor character called Marachione, played by Ninetto Davoli who was in most of Pasolini’s films and of course co-starred in Hawks And Sparrows which I reviewed last week. Does it matter there’s little connection? Not entirely. We are so used to stories in films being connected that it’s hard for us to assimilate tales which seemingly don’t have a link. In Pigsty, the two tales are intercut with each other throughout, sometimes in brief scenes, sometimes in long ones, yet the whole thing has a strange rhythm, giving the sense that the film was put together very carefully. It’s sad to think that some versions of the film actually have some of the scenes in the wrong order!
The story sets in the past is probably the most striking, and I almost wanted to see it played out without any interruption. Now I say the past, and the time seems to be the Middle Ages judging by the soldier’s uniforms, though I’m sure I noticed some modern garb, and anyway it doesn’t matter. Our two protagonists scamper over a bleak, dark wasteland which is actually Mt Etna which you can actually see smoking, and, aided by the complete lack of dialogue, the scenes have a brilliantly primal feel ,like a film made from another time, found hidden somewhere and dug up. You can almost feel the wind blowing in your face. The cinematography is by three people which include Sergio Leone’s cameramen Tonino Delli Colli and Guiseppe Ruzzollini, so you know it’s going to be good, but he outdoes himself here in depicting this nightmare landscape of the imagination. Pigsty was controversial for its depiction of cannibalism here, especially as we are seemingly intended to sympathise with the main character [though not his companion, who also likes to rape women], though it’s shown quite discreetly, so no Cannibal Holocaust stuff here. The story ends the way it probably should predictably brutal fashion, though the violence is subtly shown – Pasolini being very good at toying with us and making us want to see more – and it’s the final quote, when the main guy finally speaks, that is most disturbing:
“I killed my father, I ate humans, and I quiver with joy”.
Considering the ferociousness of that tale, the modern story initially might seem a little dull by comparison, with much of it playing out in lengthy conversations, though every little scene is cleverly staged, such as the bits involving Julian and Ida. An early conversation has him sitting in a confession box while she sits in a chair outside it, while later on they are talking while on either side of a river. There’s intrigue involving the gassing of Jews during the Second World War, which seemed a little unnecessary but does lead to a great monologue where the speaker describes what he did and the other person plays frantically on his harp while our mind conjures up the images. Of course this story is primarily about someone’s dark secret and it’s revealed to us gradually though considering the film’s title you’ll probably guess it anyway! It’s very depraved and you’ll be glad that Pasolini doesn’t show it to us, though I wanted to see the rather poetic, if gruesome, end to the story which is only talked about.
This second story is obviously, in part, an attack on big business and the lack of morality amongst the rich, who here are all-too-willing to sacrifice their principles. Very timely, I think. Certain elements of the story of Christ seem to also be in there too, and shown for their inconsistency and hypocrisy, which I am sure Pasolini intended! Think of how different the Jesus of the New Testament is to the God, his father, of the Old Testament, and you can easily relate it Pigsty. The other story’s meaning is a little obscure though in part is perhaps an attack on ‘normal’ social values and an illustration of humankind’s potential for destruction. The two young men in each section are quite likeable some of the time, despite their “sicknesses”. The cannibal just wants to survive, while Julian, though rather unpleasant to his fiancée, is given a very strong scene where he describes how he started to get the way he is, and you actually feel very sorry for him! Pasolini has great sympathy with life’s outcasts, who are maybe the way they are because of their upbringing.
Pigsty seems to contain more professional cast members than usual for a Pasolini film, so the acting is much more refined though perhaps lacks the spontaneity of some of his other work. At times Pigsty seems a bit like two separate film stuck together, but overall it’s a terrific piece of Arthouse cinema that to me actually seems to be one of Pasolini’s most accessible pictures, though that is not the general opinion. I don’t think you really need to be the thinking sort to enjoy its affecting weirdness, its stunning imagery and audacious originality. And if you’re interested in that kind of thing, see if you can notice a house that would turn up in all three Godfather films.