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Film / The Hour of the Pig

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A 1993 British film, released in the United States as The Advocate, written and directed by Leslie Megahey and starring Colin Firth, Ian Holm, Donald Pleasence, Amina Annabi and Nicol Williamson. Much of its plot is based on real historical trials of animals in France from the late Middle Ages to early modern period. See here for one source.

Maître Richard Courtois (Firth), a lawyer, has left Paris with his clerk Mathieu, traveling to Abbeville in Ponthieu, then an independent region in Renaissance-era France, for what they believe will be a quiet, rural existence. However, the first thing they witness on arriving in the town is a man condemned for bestiality about to be hanged at the side of the donkey he sodomized. Then a pardon is given due to a mass petition from the villagers... on the donkey's behalf, who is deemed innocent, while the convicted man is hanged. After this strange arrival, Courtois quickly takes up many backlogged cases.


As he navigates the local law in court, Courtois finds work defending local clients. Courtois fails to save a client accused of witchcraft because Ponthieu law differs in a way he did not know from the Roman French law. Courtois defends a pig belonging to some Moors when it is charged with murdering a Jewish boy. They are desperate to save it, since the pig would be their only food over the winter, and one of them, Samira, even offered to sleep with him if he takes the case (Courtois declines her offer). He quickly learns there is more to the case than what appears at first glance, as the local lord tries various ways of influencing him toward losing. The lord's children are shown to be eccentric or mad, and it is revealed that the family has a dark past.

The case appears lost when the lord exercises his feudal right and prepares to decide the trial personally, but then it is adjourned for Advent. Courtois declines advice from the prosecutor that he return to Paris, where greater opportunity awaits him, and commissions a house in Abbeville. While laying the foundation, however, the body of another Jewish boy killed a year earlier is uncovered. Courtois begins to suspect that a human killer was responsible, and his client has been falsely accused.


The film contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Cloudcuckoolander: Both the Seigneur's children qualify, though his son is also The Sociopath.
  • Coitus Ensues: Courtois' encounter with the maid at the inn apparently comes out of nowhere until it's revealed later that the inn doubles as the town brothel, so this was all part of the services provided. Even so, it seems to be there largely as fanservice. Courtois' sleeping with Samira at a later point makes much more sense in the story line.
  • Destructo-Nookie: A downplayed example, but Maria while having sex with Courtois puts her foot through a nearby (presumably thin) wall.
  • The Dung Ages: Averted. The characters are shown as largely clean (with some peasants not as much, but that may just be after a hard day's work) and going to a bathhouse. In fact, it may be unrealistic, since by the time the bathing culture had deteriorated after the Plague (bathhouses were a disease vector and often closed).
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  • Erotic Dream: Courtois has one of Samira just before he gets woken up by the maid, who sees how "happy" it made him, and... Coitus Ensues.
  • Foreshadowing: Jeannine's prophecy.
  • Frame-Up: Of the pig, unsurprisingly.
  • Hairy Girl: Accurately for the era, all women who show them have unshaved pubic areas.
  • The Immodest Orgasm: Maria gets very loud when she comes to climax while having sex with Courtois.
  • Kangaroo Court: The Ponthieu court has strong elements of this with its animal and witchcraft trials, though this is all Truth in Television.
  • Letting Her Hair Down: Maria does this along with removing her head covering prior to having sex with Courtois.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Sophie Dix as the maid Maria shows full nudity in her sex scene. Along with her is Amina Anabi to a lesser degree as Samira, who's topless a couple times, once in a sex scene too (though far less explicit).
  • Off on a Technicality: Played straight at first, and then inverted terribly. Jeannine, accused of witchcraft, has a charge dismissed this way, but then gets convicted due to an aspect of Ponthieu law Courtois didn't know about.
  • Prophecy Twist: Jeannine's prophecy from the gallows that a fine knight will come to deliver the people of Abbeville from their lies and evil. At the end of the film, a knight does arrive... carrying the Black Plague. So they are "delivered" by dying from it.
  • Public Bathhouse Scene: Courtois has a conversation with the priest while they're in the town bathhouse at one point. As a result, the priest is briefly distracted by the sight of a nude nun going past them.
  • Serial Killer: The Seigneur's son, who targets the Jewish boys as their low status makes them highly vulnerable (Jews couldn't testify in court, for instance) and he can get away with it more easily. Of course his father being their lord helps as well.
  • The Sociopath: The Seigneur's son, who is sent away to England for "treatment".
  • Truth in Television: As stated above, the animal trials really occurred, with many events the film depicts based on actual cases. Maître Richard Courtois was also based on a real man, Bartholomew Chassenee, famous as an advocate in 16th-century France. The skepticism of the priest toward witchcraft is also probable, since the Catholic church mostly disclaimed it then. Thus it's unlikely another priest or him would be burned for denying it, as he claims.


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