Revolution of Pigs - Review

This feature debut from Rene Reinumagi and co-director Jaak Kilmi blends satire and comedy with a rare historical and political perspective. "Revolution of Pigs" appeals to a range of people and ages - despite its unique and captivating Estonian roots, the film's heart remains the age-old, universal struggle of youth versus adulthood, and ultimately the will for human freedom under the stranglehold of oppression.

In the summer of 1986, hundreds of Estonian teenagers flock to the countryside for the annual Pupils' Summer Brigade. Not dissimilar to any camp situation anywhere in the world, the teens celebrate their common youth by drinking, playing music, dancing and having their first sexual experiences. Campers don 1980's style sunglasses and bandannas then congregate on the disco floor, set off by one in-the-know, heavily accented partier asking the DJ to spin some "Duran". As "Wild Boys" rages through the speakers, the night's antics begin and the teens make the best of their happy situation.

However, inescapable social realities eventually halt the adolescent bliss. Foreboding sentiments part of being an Estonian teenager in 1986, such as fear of being sent to the Soviet war in Afghanistan, confuse and anger the young campers. Soon they mutiny and stage their own revolution against the tyrannical camp directors.

What makes this film so strikingly different from the best American teen rebellion films like "Over the Edge", "Dazed and Confused" or even "Rebel Without a Cause" is the colossal force these Eastern European teens are battling: an ubiquitous and pervading communism. Reinumagi and Kilmi do best when craftily splicing nostalgia-inducing moments of coming-of-age amidst a Western influenced 1980's pop culture, with those more dire realities of the Soviet system. Most Western audiences will be taken aback: interrogation, forced confessions followed by arrest and social removal, sirens and searchlights, military style marches, ludicrous propaganda highlighted by party films and speeches, and relentless, power-abusing leaders seem all the more horrendous in light of the delicate age of the subjects involved.

During that summer of perestroika, Estonian youth ascended on their Brigade with romantic notions of change and expectation. Their oppressor was a monolith system with its tyrannical head in far-off Moscow. At one point in "Revolution of Pigs", the rebellious teens organize and pen an idealistic letter to Ronald Reagan, in which they affirm their independent culture and nation as Estonians. One girl cynically exclaims, "Nothing will change," clearly feeling the smallness of their struggle. However, the eventual and unanimous response becomes "Everything has changed already." In truth, the varied escapades of the young campers provide us with a potent microcosm for the fettered human resisting the overbearing yoke of any unjust oppressor.

These days Estonia, like much of Eastern Europe, looks westward and has recently joined the European Union. But through the film's odd deus ex machina ending, perhaps the directors suggest an ongoing disgruntlement and the insoluble nature of any self-interested government. Perhaps today Estonia and Eastern Europe have blundered by rashly exchanging the Soviet Union for the EU, and Afghanistan for Iraq.

With a population of under 1.5 million, and a statistical output of just 2.5 films per year, it isn't everyday one may claim to have sampled an Estonian motion picture. The reality Reinumagi and Kilmi pose will certainly educate and interest the Western viewer, but perhaps more importantly, "Revolution of the Pigs" succeeds via the universally accessible vehicle of a common humanity.

The Flag

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