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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Pig
Pig
Kino // Unrated // March 11, 2014
List Price: $26.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Tyler Foster | posted September 12, 2014 | E-mail the Author
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A man (Rudolf Martin) wakes up in the desert. He has a black hood on his head, and his hands are bound behind his back with a plastic zip tie. After several harrowing hours in the desert, he breaks the zip tie on a rock and manages to check his pockets, which contain nothing but a scrap of paper with a single name on it. He is rescued from the heat by a woman, Isabel (Heather Ankeny), but when she asks him what his name is, he is unable to remember. Certain things seem familiar, but he can't quite put his finger on it. He investigates the name, Manny Elder, and discovers an apartment full of stuff that supposedly belongs to him, along with a name. Later, a woman named Anouk (Ines Dali) recognizes him by another. The man is plagued with flashes of memory, but can't quite piece together his puzzle. Who is he?

Pig is one of those movies that sounds great on paper, has ideas worth rooting for, but doesn't quite come together in the end. At times, the film itself feels familiar, like the fragments of the man's memories, except the memories are of other, similar movies (the obvious one being Memento). Although the thematic meat of the story is in the film, writer / director Henry Barrial doesn't quite seem to know how to translate that into a compelling piece of drama, so much of it is simply stated or laid out neatly for the audience, in ways that don't quite line up with what's happening in the film. On a more basic level, the movie is meandering, too fixated on the wrong details when there are other, more interesting ones it glosses right over.

The core question of the film has to do with memory and what part memory plays in our identity. The man, who we'll call Joe just to distinguish him, can't remember who he is, but when Anouk speaks to him in German, he responds in German almost instinctually. He examines his apartment, owned by Manny Elder, and finds phone bills filled with charges to sex hotlines and stacks of adult magazines. When he tells this to Anouk, she playfully says "that sounds like the person I remember." On one hand, Joe seems disinterested in the implication that he and Anouk may have been lovers, yet on the other, he found himself crawling into bed with Isabel without either of them knowing anything about him. Joe finds evidence of two identities, both distinctly different, but can sense that one is not right.

Unfortunately, without giving too much away, the movie is basically a construct. It exists to explain ideas to the audience, ideas that the film will eventually give up and explain to the audience directly, in case the discovery of those details through Joe's point of view is not enough. It feels like a cop-out, not to mention it's hard to understand why such elaborate effort is involved. For too long, the editing is a bit messy, alluding to the passage of time or transitions that are not wholly explained, forcing the viewer into a position where they're simply waiting for the other shoe to drop. When it does, the shoe drops directly on their head, a perfect lose-lose scenario. The beats of the movie's reveal are so predictable, so similar to other movies, that it's hard to tell what motivated these choices other than the fact that this is "the way" these kinds of movies are meant to end. It's a rug-pull that could occur halfway through the movie, with less theatrics, or hardly revealed at all, more of an implication than a statement. It might have even been interesting to see a movie that pitched these ideas right at the beginning.

For a low-budget film, the movie is bolstered by strong performances, including Rudolph Martin as Joe, the mystery man. Although at times it can seem like Martin thinks the measure of a performance is how much physical misery the actor went through to complete it (it must've been anguish trudging through that desert), he's a curiously engaging screen presence: quiet, occasionally funny, oddly charismatic. As a director, Barrial is adequate, shooting most of the film with an appreciable simplicity, but he can't avoid cliches like the painful, aggressively loud amnesiac flashback, another trope that is included here for no apparent reason other than it's just how amnesiac flashbacks are done in movies. For the ideas and for Martin's performance, Pig might earn a viewing, but it's an uneven film, with the resonant part being the film's potential more than its execution.

The DVD
Not sure what prompted Horizon to depict Martin on his knees in the middle of a crowded city intersection, with people whipping around him in near silhouette, all in a monochromatic blue, but having seen the film, it doesn't really fit. A similar image of Martin in the desert with the faces of his co-stars surrounding him would've been more fitting; many may be disappointed how little of the modern or technological is important in Pig based on the cover. The disc comes in a single-disc eco-friendly Amaray and there is no insert.

The Video and Audio
Pig is presented in a very soft 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Actually, the film opens with a nicely crisp-looking shot of Rudolf Martin being recorded, before jumping to the desert, where the softness is apparent, which makes me think it might be an intentional creative choice that doesn't entirely translate to this DVD. Some banding is visible (worst in an early shot "inside" the hood), and black levels could be a bit richer, but for a low-budget film, it looks fine.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 track sounds fine, aside from the film's sound design itself being a bit obnoxious. The film's flashback "attacks" assault the audience as much as they do Martin's character. Other than that, it's mostly a bunch of low-key people talking and general ambience, with the occasional bit of music, nothing too challenging. A Dolby Digital 2.0 track is also included, but sadly, no captions or subtitles are included.

The Extras
An audio commentary by writer / director Henry Barrial, producer Mark Stolaroff, and co-producer Alex Cutler is included. The majority of this track is devoted to the challenges of producing a low-budget movie and the construction of the film in editing, although from time to time, they do dive into the ideas behind the story and the conception of the idea. Some of the issues that I found a bit frustrating are cited as having been added in order to help the audience understand the story. A decent track.

As per the commentary track, a massive reel of deleted scenes (37:58) are included. Fans of Pig, especially fellow low-budget filmmakers, may be very curious to see how the film was cut and reshaped by looking at this small wealth of material, including some scenes that were reshot in the finished version, illustrating how the film's tone was changed and re-directed. (The last one, however, can probably be skipped -- just a very long chunk of additional footage of Martin wandering the desert.)

A number of videos are included. "Kickstarter Video" (5:46) is, in fact, the filmmakers' pitch for people to donate money to help them finish the film. This is followed by the "Lonely Boy Video" (1:55), an attempt at viral marketing that the filmmakers distributed to thousands of people. Two clips recorded at the Nashville Film Festival are included, titled "Nashville Film Festival Video" (1:22) and "Nashville Film Festival Q&A" (13:59), as well as another in London, the "Sci-Fi London Q&A" (30:42). It's nice to have these included, but the video from Nashville is extremely dark and the video from London is not much brighter, and the camerawork on both is fairly shaky, so although there may be some interesting information for fans (although some of it is covered by the commentary), sitting through the clips is a bit of a chore.

Two theatrical trailers for Pig are also included.

Conclusion
The DVD of Pig is arguably a better value than the film itself. Paired with the commentary and the massive selection of deleted and alternate scenes, a young filmmaker has a great example of how one might struggle to find a film inside the footage. The movie itself has more promise than payoff, but the disc is worth a rental just for the combined overview of what went into the making of the film.


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