Michael Sarnoski’s directorial debut, Pig, is a film that takes on earnest themes under the guise of a seemingly simple and silly sequence of events. Robin “Rob” Feld, the film’s ex-chef protagonist played by Nicolas Cage, assiduously journeys throughout the city of Portland in search of his beloved truffle-hunting pig. While the aura, at times, may seem dark, macabre, and outright creepy, Sarnoski creates an almost wholesome allegory for the connection between animal and human.
The film opens elegantly, featuring the sweet relationship between Cage’s character and his pig in an otherwise unoccupied yet bucolic forest. Spending their days foraging for extremely valuable and sought-after truffles that supply Portland’s culinary scene, the two complement and fulfill each other. The pig, referred to as “girl,” provides the affection lost after the death of Rob’s wife. Meanwhile, Rob provides care and love for an animal that is superficially seen as a source of profit and nothing else.
Suddenly, the perfect life that the two live is interrupted by malicious burglars who successfully steal the pig from Rob’s secluded hut. Left disheveled and angry, Rob immediately sacrifices his peaceful life to search for the pig. This unrelenting endeavor takes him back to the city of Portland and the culinary scene he so ambiguously left behind. Revealing his past and its many intricacies, Rob’s unabating love remains the priority of his diligent search.
Being Sarnoksi’s debut, this film is nothing short of impressive. A small budget and short time-frame were challenges, not to mention the overall hurdle one must jump to break into the film industry. Evidently, he handled this task with class, gall, and expertise.
The story itself is utterly unique, twisting the conventional adventurous revenge narrative into an aberration from the ever-growing monotonous stories so valued by major production companies. The concept is silly; a man risking his life for a not-too-cute pig that hunts truffles is not your everyday story. While this film could have easily been an Adam Sandler comedy, it instead is a poignant and dramatic portrait of an unsuspecting love between a man and his pig.
Perhaps what makes this so is Nicolas Cage’s performance. Known to play ironic characters, some of whom steal the Declaration of Independence, Cage’s return to Oscar-winning form is what drives the film. Traditionally a not-so-serious actor, Cage’s obvious passion for and within this role perfectly parallels the intention of Sarnoski. It’s an unconventional narrative and role that portrays important and meticulous themes.
Cage is everything that Sarnoski wanted him to be. In the most crucial moments, he is poised, angry, and determined to accomplish his goal. At other times, he is sarcastic and jocular, taking jabs at the world he left behind. Ultimately, he is loving, going to great lengths not only for his beloved pig but for his wife and the few people he still has left.
Juxtaposed against the trendy and eclectic environment of Portland, Cage and his lifestyle are rugged, humble, and reclusive. That being said, the latter characteristics embrace the wild attempt to combat the modernization of Portland and other previously-agricultural areas. A return to roots, the film favors the flora and fauna of the natural world as opposed to the civilized society that serves as the disruptor. Scenes are spliced between beautiful birds-eye shots of forests and wildlife, while Portland is portrayed as sterile and uncomfortably clean.
This comparison continues beyond the scenery, as the actual antagonist becomes a symbol for the threat of modernization and commercialization. The pig is stolen for its lucrative abilities, yet it is searched for because of its interpersonal connection with Cage’s character. Additionally, Rob leaves the culinary scene he so dominated because it no longer embodied the dreams and aspirations of his peers. The catalyst in all of this is urbanization and the farcical need for innovation, never the traditional, solitary life that Rob lives.
Sarnoski’s love for nature, while exemplified throughout the film, is quintessentially found in Rob’s relationship with his pig. Despite the fact that Rob can hunt truffles without her, he still risks his life and livelihood for this animal. It has become a companion, replacing his recently lost wife, and Rob cannot imagine a life without her. Although they can never communicate through words, their bond is as close as any other. This relationship goes to show that even an animal can provide the sought-after happiness that we all wish to achieve.
Pig presents a new and unique narrative that offers viewers a new look into a familiar story. The underlying themes that appreciate nature and its givings only prove to make the film more impactful and worthwhile. An impressive directorial debut, with the help of Nicolas Cage, Michael Sarnoski has his whole career in front of him.