A Private Function by Alan Bennett
A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:
- https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEVa4_CsRStSBBDo4uJWT8BSWtTTn0N1E and http://realini.blogspot.ro/
A Private Function is a hilarious comedy.
Alan Bennett is a wonderful writer and I have already enjoyed quite a few of his works, including the excellent:
- History Boys, The Clothes they Stood Up In, Kafka’s Dick, The Madness of King George, Forty Years On and An Englishman Abroad
The cast is also fabulous:
- Michael Palin, Maggie Smith, Denholm Elliott and all the rest of the actors
It is 1947 and even if World War II is over, there are shortages and little food available.
Some local notabilities have a plan for the special occasion of the marriage of Princess Elizabeth, when a party will be organized.
They have raised a pig, in illegal circumstances.
Michael Palin plays the role of Gilbert Chilvers and Maggie Smith is Joyce Chilvers, his wife who is not very happy with her condition.
They are middle class, but that means that they have no access to the higher spheres of society, where the pig raisers belong.
Joyce vents her frustrations to her mother, who is old and does not seem aware of what is going on around her.
Gilbert Chilvers is cutting people’s toe nails.
Doing his rounds in the locality and environs, he becomes acquainted with most of the wives of the important people in the area.
On a farm, he comes across the…pig.
And given that people are waiting in line for a small piece of meat that quite often does not arrive or is finished before everyone has a chance to buy, the discovery of the animal is extraordinary and hilarious.
Mistreated as he is and criticized most of the time by his patronizing wife who is quite a handful, Gilbert decides to act.
So he steals the pig.
It is evidently no cake walk.
I was just reading that during the filming they used three pigs, selected to be docile and it was still difficult to work with them.
Maggie Smith barely escaped an attack.
On the other hand, I have also learned that they are quite intelligent, as smart as dogs and it is a pity we are eating them.
I am trying to be a vegetarian.
Once the pig is brought home, serious problems are accumulating.
Mother is shocked by the presence of a very awful smelling creature in the apartment and gives this presence away to the food inspector.
Then the provocation of showing that he is a man by slaughtering the pig proves too much for the sensitive Gilbert.
He actually becomes attached to the animal, whose location has been identified by the men who owned it.
There is a clash between the “rightful owners” and the man who stole their property that is funny, albeit tense.
Gilbert and another man are now opposed to the idea of killing the poor animal, never mind have him served at table.
The food inspector is also prowling around.
I will end with some quotes:
Joyce Chilvers: I think sexual intercourse is in order, Gilbert.
Dr. Charles Swaby: Now, under this National Health Service, any poorly little pillock can come into my surgery and say "I'm ill! Treat me!" Honestly, sometimes I wonder what the last war was FOR…
Morris Wormold the Meat Inspector: My experience has been, Mrs. Forbes, that when people say they are only human, it's because they have been making beasts of themselves…
[the pig has been abducted]
Grand Hotel Manager: I can put my hands on two turkeys in Bradford.
Frank Lockwood the Solicitor: Two? TWO? We've got a hundred and fifty people coming! And Jesus isn't one of them!...