FilmJuice have my review of the recent Masters of Cinema release of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s uncanny masterpiece Pigsty.
Comprising two narrative strands, the film explores the way in which cultural elites undermine dissenting opinions by subsuming traditional vocabularies of dissent. In one strand, a young man wanders wordlessly around a volcanic landscape until he comes across a dead body which he promptly consumes. This act of consumption classifies the young man as an outcast and this outcast status allows him to acquire a following that eventually forces the local authorities to intervene. When the young man is finally given the opportunity to express himself in words, all he has to say for himself is:
I killed my father, I have eaten human flesh, and I quiver with joy.
The film’s second strand is set in the 1960s where another young man finds himself crushed between the capitalistic radicalism of his father and the logorrheic gibberrish of his leftist fiancee. Denied the means with which to express himself as an individual, the boy retreats into a comatose state before finding some form of fulfillment in the act of fucking a pig.
Pigsty is an attempt to address the relationship between the generations and how difficult it can be for the young to express themselves when they are not the ones in control of society. Particularly striking is the way that Pasolini presents post-War German prosperity as little more than a repackaged version of the pre-War economic boom engineered by the Nazi government of the 1930s. With all of culture safely commoditised and filed away, what are today’s rebels to do but seek sanctuary in the most heinous acts imaginable? Windy, difficult and decidedly ‘of its time’ Pigsty remains a ceaseless beautiful and thought-provoking film by one of the great provocateurs and stylists of the European art house tradition.
The idea that cultural elites pull the ladder up behind them to ensure that nobody can rebel against them in the same way that they rebelled against previous generations will be familiar to those of you who have read Thomas Frank’s wonderful essay “Why Johnny Can’t Dissent”.