[…] Delusions become illusions, in a spiral that is sometimes cynical – when pleasant delusions are destroyed – and sometimes cathartic – when we are liberated from the unpleasant delusions.
[…] With «The Pig» Haghighi celebrates the comedy genre, through a wonderfully mastered tempo and the introduction of some powerful cinematic images. Yet, the plot and the dialogues have an absolute centrality and crush all the other cinematic aspects.
Iranian cinema has accustomed us to self-thematisation. It is often the case of pointing at the State persecution of the critic filmmaker, who is critic (also) because he/she is persecuted. However, in Mani Haghighi’s The Pig (Khook) this persecution is portrayed as a sort of masochistic and narcissistic need for the filmmaker; humour turns into self-irony on filmmakers, artists, and intellectuals. The State inspectors are short sighted and old-fashioned, and behind this caricatural world, another form of persecution emerges – and emerges as more effective: the one of the social media and their fake news, whose power is embodied by hysterical and conformist women, in an unexpected social revenge of women against unexpectedly victimized men.
In this way, Haghighi delivers a provoking film that is certainly not politically correct, at least for the standard Western reception of Iranian social and political reality. It is a debated topic, in Iran, whether the Iranian filmmakers should earn their success in exclusively attacking the illiberal attitude of the State against the values of the Western world. In addition, Haghighi has many times affirmed that Iranian cinema should speak about more than their inside political issues. Nevertheless, even though he focuses on a new and true phenomenon – the power of social media – the State power seems to be finally rehabilitated through its being shown as outdated and finally ineffective. At the end of the story, the protagonist finds a sort of ally in the State inspector. Haghighi’s pleasure for a satire that ends up in paradoxes risks undermining the effective violence that Iranian artists undergo and indirectly defending a regime that still exerts cultural censorship.
However, independently of the question of the “political” opportunities at stake, an interesting aspect of The Pig is that, the change of pattern notwithstanding, the “new” power of social media still confirms the fundamental problem of hyper-evaluating honour as a value that is dangerously dependent on the opinions of the people – those people that like and silently support dictatorships or give a thoughtless “like” on the social media. The humorous tonality through which this “fact” is highlighted blurs the limits of the actual truth. Truth is not the topic of The Pig, but the film world as a world of imagination: this world is seen from the point of view of power relationships, and said power is, or can, constantly be overcome by imagination. Delusions become illusions, in a spiral that is sometimes cynical – when pleasant delusions are destroyed – and sometimes cathartic – when we are liberated from the unpleasant delusions.
With The Pig Haghighi celebrates the comedy genre, through a wonderfully mastered tempo and the introduction of some powerful cinematic images. Yet, the plot and the dialogues have an absolute centrality and crush all the other cinematic aspects. The redundant insistence on the protagonist (Hasan Majuni), and the abundant – or, again, redundant – use of the coup-de-scène, make of this film a sort of vaudeville without the epic peaks of Haghighi’s previous films. It is a genuine pleasure to see this brilliant movie, which after the screening still appears only as a light comedy with a delicate – and somehow suspect – balance on political issues.
Text: Giuseppe Di Salvatore
First published: September 08, 2018