I want to walk into the sea and never come back. I want the tide to take me out of me and give me someone else. Maybe for a half hour or so. That would be good, wouldn’t it, Pig?
Earlier this month I attended a one off film screening of Disco Pigs at The National Theatre. With a screenplay by Enda Walsh, the event was organised in order to coincide with Walsh’s latest work, Ballyturk, on show at the Lyttelton Theatre. The 2001 film is an adaptation of the play of the same name, following its incredibly successful theatre run, starring Cillian Murphy and Eileen Walsh. The play toured between 1996-1999, in Dublin, Edinburgh (at the Fringe festival), Canada, Australia and more. Disco Pigs is where Enda and Cillian first collaborated, and they have been friends ever since. Cillian starred in Enda’s Misterman in 2011 and Ballyturk this year.
The film revolves around two Cork teenagers, Pig (Cillian Murphy) and Runt (Elaine Cassidy). Born minutes apart they reached out their hands and held onto each other. Since then, they have been inseparable. We meet them again a few days before their seventeenth birthday. They live next door to each other and have a routine everyday that they follow; they talk of the future and how one day, they are going to be the king and queen, living in a palace.
You begin to learn about how those around them view them and react to their presence. They generate a sense of fear amongst some; particularly the boy who works in the off-license. Their strong connection and fractured sense of reality seems to worry others. However, it’s the complications of Pig’s sexual awakening that becomes the real threat to their relationship. Pig starts to see Runt for her beauty and is falling heavily for her. He only sees the world that they created, for just the two of them, and believes that is all they will ever need. Runt, however, is less convinced by this version of reality. As Cillian Murphy described in an interview “She has this facility to see past him… she could look over his shoulder, whereas he just, like, blinkered on her.” This rare lack of connection between the two of them means Pig becomes heated with jealously when others show an interest in Runt, fuelling his more violent mental state to boil to the surface.
When Runt is taken to a boarding school for disruptive girls, Pig’s metal state begins to deteriorate even further. Upon reuniting on their 17th birthday, Pig takes Runt from her school to celebrate. Things begin to break down and even finding the palace they have been dreaming of doesn’t save them. The performances of both Murphy and Cassidy are powerful and gut-wrenching. You feel for them both and understand their pain equally. The anger and fury that builds within Pig swims in his eyes which pierce right through you, and at points the intensity makes it difficult to watch.
This story explores the topics of growing up, change and desire. It shows you how certain relationships can be toxic but addictive; you love this person despite being aware of the danger they hold. No one can understand your connection and that makes you defensive against anyone who tries to threaten it. Pig sees Runt as his, and his only, so when someone is seen to interfere with that, he can’t control the strength and depth of his emotions. The last moments of the film are truly harrowing and remind you that, often, dreaming can’t last forever. Reality will always catch up with you.
You know a film is effective when there is a silence in the room after watching it. As the credits rolled, everyone in the room remained still and clearly touched by what they had just witnessed. There is something special about this production that I think everyone should experience.