In medieval times, a hermit (Pierre Clémenti) who lives on the slopes of a volcano wanders the ashen landscape searching for something to eat. As the environment is not exactly bountiful, he has to make do with eating a yellow butterfly, and later spies a snake which he squashes with rocks and consumes. However, he is not entirely alone on these slopes as there are troops and gangs milling around looking to pick on outsiders, and the hermit would be well advised to stay out of their way. Then, hundreds of years later Julian Klotz (Jean-Pierre Léaud), the son of a wealthy German industrialist, is having trouble fitting in too, and is already in the process of rejecting his girlfriend Ida (Anne Wiazemsky)...
One of writer and director Pier Paolo Pasolini's more cryptic offerings, Porcile, or Pigsty as it translates into English, saw him combining two shorter works into a feature length effort, with few clues as to how they were connected thematically (for instance, is it coincidence that one actor appears in both sections?). You're on safer ground analysing the modern-day story, as it's more obviously a jab or two at the pretentions of the middle classes, both the generation who lived through the Second World War and the younger people who want to distance themselves from their elders' actions. Julian is so keen on distancing himself from society that he refuses to engage with the concerns of those his own age, and when Ida wishes him to accompany her on a protest in Berlin he decides against it, preferring to demonstrate in his own way, at one point sending himself into a coma.
As all this is going on, the medieval tale is intercut as if to court comparisons between the two narratives. However, as with many films set in those times, it has been ruined by Monty Python and the Holy Grail as actors somewhat pompously dress down and roll around in self-importantly austere conditions. You'll be contemplating on when The Knights Who Say "Ni!" will turn up. Actually nobody says anything much in these sequences, and our protagonist speaks nothing until the very end when he is captured for killing and eating a soldier, which Pasolini seems to regard as not only taboo-breaking but symbolically daring and laudable in such a repressive society. Similarly, Julian's final act of rejection involves getting back to nature in a drastic fashion, but when his girlfriend is a humourless revolutionary and his parents are ex-Nazis made good in the business world, we're supposed to see this as worth cheering. It's difficult to know how to react, really. Music by Benedetto Ghiglia.
[Tartan presents Porcile on Region 2 DVD as part of volume 2 of their Pasolini collection, along with Hawks and Sparrows and Oedipus Rex. Nice print, too.]