When Pigs Fly (1993) poster

When Pigs Fly (1993)


Germany/Japan. 1993.


Director – Sara Driver, Screenplay – Ray Dobbins, Story – Ray Dobbins & Sara Driver, Producer – Kees Kasander, Photography – Robby Müller, Music – Joe Strummer, Special Effects Supervisor – Udo A. Engel, Mechanical Effects Supervisor – Detlef Niebuhr, Production Design – Jocelyne Beaudoin. Production Company – Sultan Driver Films Inc/Sumitomo Corp.


Alfred Molina (Marty Maran), Maggie O’Neill (Sheila), Marianne Faithfull (Lilly), Rachel Bella (Ruthie), Seymour Cassel (Frank)


The barmaid at the Rose of Erin pub finds an old rocking chair in the shed and decides it would make a good present for her landlord Marty Maran. Soon after Marty accepts the chair, two ghosts appear from it – Lily, a woman who was beaten to death several years ago by her husband, who was the owner of the Rose of Erin, and Ruthie, a girl who died of fever in the rocking chair in the previous century. They are only able to appear in the vicinity of the chair. By dismantling the chair and carrying pieces of it with him, Marty walks around the city with them as invisible companions. There Lily becomes determined to avenge her death.

When Pigs Fly is a very obscure film. Director Sara Driver is the longtime girlfriend of indie director Jim Jarmusch and frequently acts as his collaborator in various roles. She had previously made the very obscure but haunting You Are Not I (1981) about a woman who escapes from a psychiatric institution and Sleepwalk (1986) about a woman translating an ancient manuscript that has magical powers.

If nothing else, When Pigs Fly is at least a different type of ghost story. It is one where the ghosts that appear are accepted as naturalistic rather than as scary or frightening. There are certainly moments when this nonchalance achieves eerie effect – the image of Maggie O’Neill pushing the chair down the street on a wheelbarrow with the two ghosts swimming through the air holding onto it. Or the walk Alfred Molina takes through the city with the two ghosts, where all manner of other ghosts appear in the background. On the other hand, there are moments when such images prove undeniably silly – like those of the two ghosts walking through the city with pieces of chair leg tied to their head.

Ghosts Rachel Bella and Marianne Faithfull in When Pigs Fly (1993)
(l to r) Ghosts Rachel Bella and Marianne Faithfull and the rocking chair

These sporadic images do not enliven what is otherwise a dull film. When Pigs Fly takes ages to go anywhere and when it does what plot it musters proves incredibly slight. The conclusion of the film feels like a shrug of the shoulders – it never leaves one giving an ounce about what happens. There are occasional dream sequences – of Alfred Molina playing a xylophone, flying through the air on the chair and what look like outtakes from an experimental film – the point of which eludes one altogether.

Despite its Irish setting, When Pigs Fly was actually shot is Wismar and Hamburg in Germany, although the settings seem so authentic that this is hard to believe.

Clip from the film here

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