All you need to know about Pig is that it involves a man on a mission to find his lost truffle pig. Yep, that’s it; all other details are better left a mystery. Why? Well, because this the rare film that is deceptive for all the right reasons. Pig will use your own assumptions of storytelling against you. Witer-director Michael Sarnoski bets you’ll assume the path this story will lead to, that you’ll think you’re one step ahead of it, only to elegantly leave you in the dust. Just like the fable of The Three Little Pigs, this story intends to teach a moral, but this can only be achieved if you enter with an open mind; going steadfast into a Nicholas Cage film called “Pig” kind of requires that.
The very name of this film undoubtedly evokes a feeling or two when one reads the title; “Pig“… that word has a weight and history behind it; it’s been used to insult and degrade all manner of people over the ages; from gluttons, politicians, sexual deviants, and everything spectrum in between. It’s easy to assume that this film could reflect these things, but much like the characters in this story, Pig is not to be judged by its appearance. This film will carve a mark into the hearts of those who are sensitive to its message and leave one feeling utterly bereft. This heavy film requires a degree of preparation.
A man on the hunt to find his lost pig… One would assume this is somewhat of a revenge story, no? Well, no, no it is not. More than anything, Pig is a deconstruction of revenge tales, in fact, it’s the antithesis of them. This is for all intents and purposes an anti-revenge film, aimed at accurately depicting the emptiness felt when revenge is not served at all, on any plate – in fact, it aims to outline the pointlessness of the act. Pig is not a film that spends its time trying to convince you of some hoity-toity themes or allegories, but rather, is blunt and remarkably cold about the truths it aims to share. This film is quiet in articulating its bold emotional moments; it makes no attempt to shock you, disgust you, or haunt you; it merely aims to inform you of the reality of grief, the simplicity of it. There’s nothing enormous about what this film is trying to say, where its enormity lies in how it says it. Pig is no pig when it comes to dressing its plate for the audience, it skillfully constructs a Michelin-starred banquet so all walks of life can interpret its meaning – the delivery method is the true genius here.
The tasteful execution of its story is paired masterfully with the casting of its characters, like red wine and steak. Nicholas Cage plays a sorrowful role here, evoking just the right amount of mystique and barely-contained emotional weight in his voice to keep you on edge of every word he utters. The unpredictability of this distinguished actor adds to the unexpected revelations that come with this film. Alongside cage is a charming performance by Alex Wolff as a sort of companion that tags along for the journey, the silent camaraderie makes for a surprising degree of chemistry between two utterly different people. Does pig reach those giant pinnacles of big screen emotion that’ll rattle the seats at the Oscars? Probably not, it’s as I say, Pig is quiet in displaying its emotional moments.
The frame in which Pig operates in doesn’t quite have the energy of John Wick or the erratic tone of Fight Club. DoP Patrick Scola brings a composed and nonchalant visual aesthetic to each frame as it often has soft lighting and close-ups creating quite an intimate experience. Aligned with what the narrative subtext has to offer, Scola finds natural beauty in everything present in Pig. Capturing the simple beauties such as a golden sliver of light in the kitchen or autumn-esqe hues of the Pacific Northwest. This careful method of technical direction significantly contributes to the character study of Cage’s as it all builds on the psychological tension in such an exceptionally rich and authentic atmosphere.
Production design is pivotal in this film as is used to display the contrast between the worlds of Cage’s and Alex Wolff’s characters, essentially the before and after the gentrification of Portland. It resembles something greater in the film and elevates the tensions between characters by showing our protagonist’s scorn of the modernised world – as he journeys through it. Pig uses dual composers for its musical score, Alexis Grapsas and Philip Klein were able to work together to create a somber musical piece which captures the somber tone of the film. This is achieved through string based instruments such as violins, a perfect instrument choice to capture the emotions of the characters and scenes they are played in.
This film is so silent in its narrative execution that it would not shock me if it slipped under the radar of most audiences. It’s an unsuspecting animal that shares one thing greatly in common with all of us, the heart. Whether the heart is broken with grief, fluttering with love, or empty with loneliness – we all essentially share the same beating heart. The only question remains, can we keep moving forward?