Vase de Noces (Wedding Trough) (1974): Belgium – directed by Thierry Zéno
Not rated by the MPAA – contains some violence, odd “relations,” and dullness
Note: This movie is a bit strange, and the following review will discuss some plot points that may be disagreeable to certain readers.
I had heard about this movie for years. It continually popped up on lists of the most disturbing movies of all time. In fact, reading the description I could hardly believe it was an actual movie.
Well, it is an actual movie, but I’m afraid the most interesting thing about it is that it was made at all. There’s one actor (unless you count a pig and three piglets) and one setting. There is no dialogue, just an odd soundtrack consisting of farm noises and a strange mix of music.
The plot concerns a farmer, all alone in an abandoned farmhouse in the countryside. By his side he keeps a variety of poultry and a pig. After a while he starts making amorous advances toward the pig, who at first shies away. Eventually, though, the farmer claims his prize.
Later some piglets are born, and the man takes care of them and plays with them a little bit. But then they hang themselves (or are hanged by the man, or their mother, I couldn’t tell.) The sow is so depressed that she kills herself by jumping into a murky well. The farmer drags her out of it and buries her, and then buries himself. He then climbs out of the grave, suddenly wearing clothes (he went into the dirt naked), and goes to work eating as much of his own poop as possible.
This is obviously not a film for everybody. The only people who might possibly be interested would be those searching out the most depraved films ever made. The funny thing is, this film wasn’t made solely to be exploitative and shocking. In fact, I have the sneaking suspicion this was trying to be an art film full of deep metaphor.
It’s difficult for me to judge the film on that level, simply because I’m sure I missed a great deal of the artsy undertones. I imagine it was made for a specific time and place (probably 1970’s Europe), and I’m afraid I wasn’t around at that time. I realize that toward the end of the film the farmer is attempting to turn himself into a pig, and this may be analogous to the human condition at large, but I can’t say for certain.
I can judge the film on its shock value, however. For a film from 1974 I’m sure it shocked audiences around the world. It definitely contains bestiality, which is something you don’t find in every movie. Baby piglets hanging from nooses was also a bit unique, though the feces-eating wasn’t particularly disturbing. The problem is, all of the shocking material is contained in a film dreadfully dull and boring. It’s a mere 79 minutes long but feels like four hours. Halfway through I was hoping it would end in ten minutes, but it somehow kept going, like the Energizer Piglet.
The film tends to linger on barnyard scenes, like chickens having sex, and following the farmer around as he does the daily chores. The accompanying soundtrack varies from operatic choirs, reminiscent of The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, Her Lover, to odd ambient noises and music. It’s quite hard to describe how the entire package fits together, and even harder to recommend the film to anyone. I did not particularly enjoy it; the only reason for watching it is to see how it fits into the history of shock cinema, and even then it’s only worth watching for hard core shock enthusiasts who don’t mind dullness.