“The Hour of the Pig” is a 1993 British/French film by writer/director Leslie Megahey, produced by the BBC.
In the period 1000 – 1500, there were no major developments in Muslim world in terms of law because major changes have already occurred earlier. Meanwhile in Europe, there were major developments. In this period there is an increasing role of papacy and state. The increasing role of state also contributed to elimination of various local authorities. However, the movie “The Hour of the Pig” depicts something different at this point.
The story takes place in 15th century at France. The lawyer Maitre travels to a local province to work and he is ambitious about spreading justice. But his approaches are suppressed time to time because the judges state that the province is not a part of Kingdom of France actually, because it is ruled not by laws which France uses. Instead, they use some other thing called “Ponthieu law”. This proves that, in spite of increasing state authority and centralization, local forces are still important. The concept of “prison” was a 19th century phenomenon and in the historical period we’re interested, prisons are only used to keep suspects waiting until their case is resolved. Moreover, resolution is actualized in two ways: Death sentence or freedom.
In the film, Maitre takes over the case of a “witch woman” who is kept in prison during her case. Maitre defends her in front of judges, but loses the case, not because her actions are against the state laws but because they clash with religious ones. At this time, Ponthieu laws aren’t valid, but the churches’ are. Meanwhile the judge says that “custom and practice” is important in their decision. In the respect, in lecture, it was also claimed that customs and traditions were important factors in defining state laws established in this period; which proves the point that the movie is making in this particular scene.
I also think that this discussion on law is very much related with the movie I mentioned in the previous post, Le Destin. While “The Hour of the Pig” depicts the conflicts in terms of law at France in 15th century, Le Destin represents a period in Andalusia where Ibn Rushd as the judge, experiences conflicts with higher authorities about practicing “state laws”. Ibn Rushd believes that caliph’s words aren’t above the established laws. Besides, in 12th century, he even sentences a criminal for five years imprisonment, which is never the case in 15thcentury France; which proves that in the Muslim world, developments in law were established earlier than Christian world.
However, there are similar conflicts that both Maitre and Ibn Rushd faces, which is the relation between “established law” and higher authorities that intervene it, such as church or caliph. Additionally, The Hour of the Pig represents another conflict on the basis of practicing the laws. In the film, Maitre discusses with the landlord whose son insults Samira and receives no punishment. Maitre stays critical to this situation by claiming that even an individual from a rich family should be facing the same laws as the mass society does. However, the landlord says that “there is one law to the rich”. This sequence in the film is important because it emphasizes a kind of class division and also represents the way laws may be obsolete not only by interventions of church but also upper-class aristocracy.