Friday, October 11, 2019

Johanna Stoberock's "Pigs"

Johanna Stoberock is the author of the novels Pigs and City of Ghosts. Her short stories and essays have appeared in numerous publications, including Better: Culture & Lit, The Wilson Quarterly, Copper Nickel, Front Porch, and the 2014 Best of the Net Anthology.

Here Stoberock shares her vision for a trailer of an adaptation of Pigs:
Envisioning Pigs as a movie is hard, particularly because, central to the novel, are a herd of giant, magical pigs. How do you put giant pigs on screen without diminishing their fierceness or their magic? I haven’t come up with an answer yet, other than that maybe you just don’t—maybe in a movie the pigs would be a presence that is felt and heard throughout but that is never seen.

Just as I don’t have a clear vision for the pigs, I also don’t have a clear vision for the film as a whole. But I do have an idea for a trailer.

To understand the trailer, you have to know a little bit about the novel’s plot: Pigs follows a group of parentless children who live on an island that serves as the repository for all the world’s trash. They gather it up and feed it to the enormous, insatiable pigs mentioned above. The children have to worry about not getting too close to these creatures for fear that the pigs, in their hungry frenzy, might snap off something like a finger (or worse). So they are pretty scary. But the thing about the island is that it’s not the pigs that the children have to worry about the most. It’s the island’s other human inhabitants—a group of glamorous, bloodthirsty, cruel adults.

When I was writing the novel, I pictured those adults as perverted versions of the characters in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita. They dress like Italian film stars from the early 1960’s (stiletto heels, body-skimming dresses, sharp suits), and, if they were in a film themselves, it wouldn’t seem strange for them to have the soundtrack from La Dolce Vita filling out the background of every single scene they’re in. Part of what’s so scary about these people is the way that the suffering they cause and the suffering they witness doesn’t distract them, even a little bit, from their reckless desire for the good life.

So here’s what I picture for the trailer:

The opening of the book read aloud:
The pigs ate everything. Kitchen scraps. Bitter lettuce from the garden. The stale and sticky contents of lunch boxes kids brought home from school. Toe nail clippings. Hair balls pulled up from the drain. After the pigs were done, there weren’t any teeth left over, not even any metal from cavities filled long ago.
On screen, we see black and white footage from the early 1960’s of film stars dancing, drinking, laughing, glamming it up.

The voiceover ends with:

“Luisa was missing a finger.”

Onscreen, the film-star footage fades and the camera settles on a small child alone on a beach.

It’s just a trailer—a full movie would require a more skilled visual imagination than my own. But that’s the mood I’d want: the ironic juxtaposition of excess and need; the black and white images of desire fulfilled fading into the full color image of a child with nothing.
Visit Johanna Stoberock's website.

--Marshal Zeringue