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Pigs Will Fly

Battered wives have been the subject of countless dramas told from the victim's point of view, but few films have ventured inside the head of the perpetrator. "Pigs Will Fly" zeros in on factors that trigger violence in a confirmed batterer and the insidious manipulation that keeps the man's partners under his thumb.

Battered wives have been the subject of countless dramas told from the victim’s point of view, but few films have ventured inside the head of the perpetrator. “Pigs Will Fly” zeros in on factors that trigger violence in a confirmed batterer and the insidious manipulation that keeps the man’s partners under his thumb. Shot on mini-DV for $500,000, the edgy drama displays the same narrative economy and skill with actors shown by Berlin-based Irish filmmaker Eoin Moore in his atmospheric 1998 debut, “Break Even.” Further festival bookings and TV slots should follow.

Laxe (Andreas Schmidt) is a seemingly easygoing Berlin cop quickly revealed to be tightly wound in a scene where he picks up his wife Manuela (Kristen Block) from her supermarket job and witnesses the innocent flirtation of one of her co-workers. Manuela’s visible discomfort conveys Laxe’s history of over-reaction to such incidents. After a brief explosion as he waits in the car, Laxe smothers his anger until it erupts later at home in stunning violence.

Hospitalized for the sixth time after being beaten by her husband, Manuela appears almost apologetic to Laxe for the trouble caused by the incident. Suspended from the police force due to a social worker’s report, he decides to visit his brother Walter (Thomas Morris) in San Francisco while his wife recovers.

A nonconfrontational neo-hippie who couldn’t be more unlike his older brother, Walter avoids commitment but quietly pines for his lesbian housemate (Alexis Lezin). While Laxe is rigid and averse to introspection, Walter deals with his issues through therapy, Tai Chi and writing poetry. The history of violence in the brothers’ family is hinted at in a brief Berlin scene between Laxe and his terse father (Hans Peter Hallwachs), then confirmed when Walter digs up his childhood nightmares at a poetry reading.

Written by Moore and Nadya Derado with improvisational input from the four principal actors, the script never reveals too explicitly to what degree Laxe acknowledges or wishes to overcome his problem. His progress appears minimal when he hooks up emotionally and sexually with fellow German Inga (Laura Tonke), a casual member of Walter’s household, and immediately starts trying to control the girl’s chaotic life.

When Laxe returns to Berlin for his father’s funeral, his inability to change finally sinks in with Manuela, who walks. This prompts Laxe to return to San Francisco and Inga, making a concerted attempt to control his pattern of irrational jealousy and violence.

While the action marginally stalls with Laxe’s second San Francisco trip and appears to be headed in an improbably tidy cop-out direction, Moore resolves the story on a realistic note, keeping the audience guessing as to which way Laxe will turn. While the drama in no way sympathizes with the aggressor, its depiction of the wife-beater as a man no less trapped than the women he victimizes may rile viewers looking for a more clear-cut accusatory moral line.

Schmidt, who has appeared in all three of Moore’s features, makes Laxe both scary and pathetic, his outbursts of anger seeming all the more shocking because of the lanky cop’s benign, physically unimposing appearance. Moore’s choice to show the violence only partially, in bursts of fragmented, nervous editing and with distorted sound also contributes to making the events more unsettling. Other key cast are equally strong, nailing their characters with swift precision and bringing intense naturalism and spontaneity to their roles.

A soundtrack of mellow acoustic and vocal tracks effectively plays against the material’s dark mood, and Bernd Lohr’s limber, restless camerawork underlines the uneasy atmosphere.

Pigs Will Fly

Germany

  • Production: A Workshop Leppin Moore Hoerner production, in association with ZDF (Das kleine Fernsehspiel). (International sales: Peppermint, Munich.) Produced by Anne Leppin, Eoin Moore, Sigrid Hoerner. Directed by Eoin Moore. Screenplay, Moore, Nadya Derado.
  • Crew: Camera (color, DV-to-35mm), Bernd Lohr; editor, Oliver Gieth, Moore; music, Warner Poland, Kai-Uwe Kohlschmidt, Chris Whitley; costume designer, Anja Niehaus; sound (Dolby SR), Frank Kruse, Andreas Koppen; assistant director, Karen Fulham; casting, Antje Mibbach, Barbara Schulze. Reviewed at San Sebastian Film Festival (competing), Sept. 27, 2002. Running time: 102 MIN. (German & English dialogue.)
  • With: Laxe - Andreas Schmidt Walter - Thomas Morris Inga - Laura Tonke Manuela - Kirsten Block Stacey - Alexis Lezin Uncle Max - Udo Kier Father - Hans Peter Hallwachs