A Film a Week - Even Pigs Go to Heaven / Nosila je rubac črleni

 previously published on Cineuropa

We already know that all dogs go to heaven, but what about pigs? They are among the most intelligent animals, somewhat trainable, but they also have strong personalities and can certainly be adorable in movies. So, 27 years after George Miller’s Babe, let us meet another very special pig, this time from the Zagorje region in Croatia, in the third feature film directed by the Croatian-American filmmaker Goran Dukić, best known for his debut, the American indie film Wristcutters: A Love Story (2006). Even Pigs Go to Heaven premiered in the national competition of the Pula Film Festival, and its next festival booking is just around the corner, at Motovun.

Narrated by the all-knowing Jesus Christ on the cross, and set in the hilly area of Zagorje (north of Zagreb) in the year 1991 when the war broke out in Croatia, Even Pigs Go to Heaven plays out like a light-weight comedy-drama about pigs and their human companions dealing with the hardships of life, love and the well-meaning but sometimes overbearing environment. Our human protagonist is Anka (Nataša Dorčić of You Carry Me fame), a smart and energetic village woman that has to handle various situations on the verge of scandal. Firstly, her goddaughter Ančica (Tesa Litvan) is about to get married to a hopelessly naive and seemingly mentally challenged man she does not love, while she carries the baby of the village priest in an environment where everybody knows everything and everybody judges everyone, but where discretion is an imperative of sorts. And secondly, her beloved sow Beba (voiced also by Litvan) really has the itch to mate for the first time. Anka has Rocky, a dark-haired, big and strong boar in her mind as a perfect match for Beba, but the trouble is that Rocky is Serbian and what would the village think of her while the young lads get mobilised into the army to fight against the Serbian aggression?

Silly as it seems, Even Pigs Go to Heaven is actually a love letter to the unique landscape and the unique mindset of Zagorje that combines religiousness, alcohol, hard work and humour with some of the nasty habits of gossiping, being judgmental and getting in conflicts with neighbours, friends and family members for various petty reasons, masked by a blend of sex, romance and the comedy of human nature that sometimes turns into a proper drama. Spiced up with emotions, decorated with cutesy animation and dressed as a period piece, detailed in terms of music and sound design, this film is certainly a demanding production that manages to keep the local taste while telling a universally understandable story.

The script written by Sandra Antolić (Branko Schmidt’s Agape and Once We Were Good for You) is quite detailed, rich in local flavours regarding customs and the dialect, while the basic story of human and animal love as overseen by a benevolent figure works in pretty much any language, both as a folktale and as an observation of human behaviour. Nataša Dorčić carries the film with zest and grace. On the technical level, everything is a top notch effort, like Branko Linta’s postcard-worthy cinematography, Iva Rodić-Novak’s production design, Morana Starčević’s costume design, animation and visual effects done by the co-production company Vertigo Visual and especially Ivana Fumić’s smooth editing, while the soundtrack consisting of jazzed- or rocked-up traditional songs (and those newly written that sound traditional) by the band Cinkuši is absolutely fitting. It seems that Even Pigs Go to Heaven was a meaningful project for all involved and that Dukić, who can certainly make a cute, feel-good yet extravagant film, also had a good time directing it.

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