Pigsty (1969)

This could be Pasolini’s most oblique work—a diptych that examines the nature of latent fascism and fetishistic consumption through the symbolism of cannibalism and the erasure of bodily traces.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review #2,420

Dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini
1969 | Italy | Drama | 98 mins | 1.85:1 | Italian
M18 (passed clean) for nudity and some disturbing scenes

Cast: Pierre Clementi, Jean-Pierre Leaud, Alberto Lionello, Ugo Tognazzi, Anne Wiazemsky
Plot: The story of a cannibal in a medieval wasteland is interwoven with that of the son of an ex-Nazi industrialist in modern-day Germany.
Awards: Official Selection (Venice)
Source: Compass Film

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Slightly Disturbing – Cannibalism; Fascism; Consumption
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex-Diptych
Pace: Slow
Audience Type: General Arthouse

Viewed: MUBI
Spoilers: No

Of all of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s films, Pigsty (or Porcile as it is more commonly known) could be his most oblique work.  As impenetrable as it is fascinating, the film does offer some delights—that is, if you are willing to experience the film less in literal terms. 

Structured as an intercutting diptych, Pigsty examines the nature of latent fascism and fetishistic consumption through the symbolism of cannibalism and the erasure of bodily traces. 

The first story is set in the medieval era where a group of cannibals exert their territorial right over anyone that comes their way… well, by eating them. 

Shot mostly without dialogue, and in the mountainous highlands best described as a volcanic landscape, this is Pasolini’s filmmaking at its most organic and earthy. 

“I killed my father, I ate human flesh, and I quiver with joy.”

It is, of course, also rather gruesome as bodies are eaten, portending the dog-eat-dog world of capitalism thousands of years later that would ravage the working class. 

In contrast, the second story is much more sanitised, visually that is.  Set in a rich industrialist’s mansion, we follow his son Julian (Jean-Pierre Leaud of The 400 Blows) who is more interested in mingling with pigs at a nearby farm than spending time with his girlfriend, a political activist.

Or for that matter, his father who in an extended conversation with a rival industrialist discusses the prospect of joining forces to bring post-WWII Germany into the new dawn, or what is now known as Wirtschaftswunder.  Their conversation, however, reeks of fascistic deliberation, alluding to the morbid ills of Nazism. 

How deep viewers can go with Pigsty will largely depend on their ability to make historical and intellectual connections between the two stories, as well as locate the dangers where ideological thinking might rear its ugly head. 

Grade: B+


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