PIG film review: genuine narrative verve

Hasan Majuni as the director Hasan Kasmai in PIG.
Hasan Majuni as the director Hasan Kasmai in PIG.

THERE is a hallucinatory scene in a prison cell in the Iranian film PIG when the director Hasan Kasmai (Hasan Majuni) plays a stomping Angus Young solo to AC/DC with an illuminated tennis racquet.

That’s as far as the Aussie references go, but it does cut to the core of what repression will do to an artist. Hasan must regularly go away into such spaces to protect his creativity and quarantine a semblance of sanity.

He’s a blacklisted director who hasn’t been allowed to make a film in years. Another director is courting his muse Shiva (Leila Hatami), while his status with wife Goli (Leili Rashidi) is unclear.

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Yet it’s social media that really drives him mad. The film opens strikingly with a group of schoolgirls walking down the street discussing their film crushes and potential social media posts.

A commotion on the side of the road brings them face to face with a severed head.

A serial killer is decapitating the country’s best filmmakers and Hasan is insulted by the ‘snub’ that has led to him not being among the victims.

Death would be an honourable artistic outcome but fate has other things in mind. He becomes the prime suspect in the murder case and a social media sensation. Perhaps social media will also prove his salvation.

Director Mani Haghighi manages the absurdist elements with the skill Iranian filmmakers inevitably bring when producing work in such constrained circumstances in a censorious country.

In his notes to the film, he acknowledges just how unpleasant Hasan is and how enabled he is by much more capable and emotionally mature women.

But he’s taken on a lot of themes in commenting on his own industry and indeed his own role through his main protagonist.

A little is lost in this process but there is genuine narrative verve and a commanding central performance by Majuni.

While I wasn’t ultimately Thunderstruck, you have to admit that It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock’n’Roll) in Iran.

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THE ESSENTIALS

PIG (MA15+)

Directed by: Mani Haghighi

Starring: Hasan Majuni, Leila Hatami, Leili Rashidi, Parinaz Izadyar

3.5 stars

In cinemas now