How to Give Up Pork
BY SADIRA SITTAMPALAM
Nicholas Cage’s career over the last two decades has been one of frightening variability. You never know what you are going to get. Whether it’s a potential vampire who aggressively shouts out the alphabet, a man trying to steal the declaration of independence or a pair of twins trying to write an adaptation and screenplay; Cage does it all. While each performance is in its own way distinct, some performances are undoubtedly better than others - and 2021’s Pig is definitely a film where he showcases one of his better performances.
In this film he stars as Robin, a man who hunts for truffles along with his prized foraging pig. However, his reclusive and anti-social life is soon threatened when his beloved truffle-finding pig goes missing. This film takes pride in its slow and meditative moments, using Cage’s performance to anchor the film to ensure that it is a journey you are invested in. The film begins by introducing us to Robin and his lifestyle, and proceeds in a way in which every new development is a surprise, giving us more and more to think about every other scene.
The director cleverly plays with our expectations, giving us enough of a tease until he’s ready to violently subvert them. Having this John Wick type set-up, it was easy to expect huge action scenes or some type of crazy scenario to happen, but this was a much more toned down film. Much like the solitude that Robin seeks in his hermit-like lifestyle, this film was a meditative experience, progressing slowly but surely to help us discover who this character is and was. Nevertheless, the director did know how to amp it up in moments of tension or stress, which really made the film come alive.
The cinematography ensured that this pace was met with an appreciation of the setting, while the soundtrack appeared when things were getting a little heavy. This application was quite seamless, and while it wasn’t very exceptional, it did its job efficiently. There were still a lot of points in the movie where I didn’t know whether I should be taking it seriously or not, as some scenes were a little absurd. It’s that moment where you don’t know whether you should laugh or not. I feel like the film didn’t do a great job of towing this line, as at least in John Wick you know that the entire movie is ridiculous.
Here it’s a little more of an internal struggle to decide whether this is at least partly realistic or just a little ridiculous. I’d credit most of the film’s to Cage’s performance as in the hands of any other actor it wouldn’t have come out nearly as sincere. Much of his performance reminds me of Joaquin Phoenix in You Were Never Really Here in the sense that a lot of their withdrawn performance was conveyed through their physicality and overall demeanour rather than their dialogue. However, Cage still knows how to make his lines count, effortlessly spitting out words as though he had already lived them.
He cites that a lot of his performance was based on dreams (or perhaps nightmares) of losing his cat, with whom he shares a deep connection with; and it is pretty clear from the depth and nuanced nature of his performance that he in fact really loves his cat. Moreover, I really didn’t expect to be moved by this movie, but there was something that really stirred within me when watching this simple story of a man being separated from his pig.
It was quite strange the emotional connection that was built up throughout this movie, as you certainly don’t expect it and is only more credit to Cage’s performance and the direction of the movie. Overall, this is a film that was quite an unusual yet exciting watch. From a first time director, it was certainly a great effort as everything was well crafted and presented. However, without Cage’s central performance this film wouldn’t be nearly as good as it is. It didn’t have any major breakthroughs in terms of cinema but was definitely one of the more interesting films I’ve watched this year.