Fairy tales hold a special place in storytelling, using fantasy to explore the philosophical conundrums that haunt our daily lives. And while fairy tales these days are associated with children for their familial content and ever-happy endings, these extraordinary stories can also be filled with blood and violence. Described as a dark fairy tale, To yell explores the limits of freedom in a society driven by violence, where the only prospect of success comes from the hope of one day being on the other side of the stick. And if the central theme of the film echoes very human concerns, To yell also leads us to think of another form of domination, that imposed on animals.


Formerly known as Samuel’s Journey, To yell follows Samuel (Kevin Janssens), a man who gets lost in Eastern Europe, only to be captured by a family of farmers and forced to live like a pig. Alongside Samuel’s misadventures, the film also explores the escape attempts of a tiny piglet, who has human-level intelligence and is capable of rudimentary communication. Samuel and the piglet are united in their unfortunate condition, locked in a farmhouse, sleeping in the dirt and eating whatever their owners decide to feed them. And as we watch both creatures suffer alike, we can’t help but think of how animals are still reduced to the position of objects to be possessed, even though they are sentient beings, with their own kind of fears and desires.

Samuel’s condition is so worrying because he is reduced to an inhuman position. Kirke, the pig farmer’s daughter (Laura Silina) claims to love the handsome stranger, but she still keeps him chained, naked, stripped of every trace of dignity. Samuel is also frequently beaten when he refuses to listen or shows rebellion. Kirke expects blind obedience from her new pet, and though her love seems to be genuine, it’s unsettling to watch her subject Samuel to cruel treatment while pretending to protect him from the dangers of the woods. The only thing that can justify this apparent hypocrisy is Kirke’s belief that Samuel is nothing more than a thing to be manipulated, much like the pigs on his farm. And if Samuel doesn’t deserve his sad condition, maybe the pigs don’t deserve it either.

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More than wondering about the horrors of an animal farm, To yell also uses its dark fairy tale to make a point of humanity’s power struggles. Samuel will not be the only human reduced to the position of an animal (mistreated), and the objectification of men as beasts is part of the disputes between different farmers. Everyone wants to be the smartest and strongest person, which usually means making mistakes and even destroying other people’s property. The savagery of the world forces the new generation to become savages themselves, otherwise they will be like any other farm animal on their way to the slaughterhouse after a life in the mud.

It should also be mentioned that To yell also subverts expectations by having a male victim. xavier peopleBorder(s), Pascal Laugieit is Martyrs, Lucky McKeeit is Wife, Ben Youngit is love dogs… There are so many films – more or less successful – about a woman who gets kidnapped and framed for some twisted motive that “bunker woman” is already a recognized trope. So, it’s somewhat refreshing to follow a story that reverses gender roles by featuring a woman capturing a man, only to tame him into submission.

And speaking of submission, To yellThe fairy tale also explores voluntary captivity, asking how much of our self-esteem we are willing to trade for a comfortable life. While the antlers are dangerous and can destroy poor piglets wandering alone, they also allow creatures to be truly free. On the other hand, the farm offers shelter, food and caring company. All you need to do to enjoy these little comforts is give up your freedom, an act that can be just as painful and enjoyable.

By comparing human and animal conditions, To yell creates a dark fairy tale that forces us to contemplate the daily violence to which different living beings are subjected. While perhaps incidentally advocating for animal rights, the film actively attempts to discuss the dynamics of abusive relationships, in which one party has complete power over the well-being of the other. While these relationships can be cruel and vicious, they can also represent a place where someone can give up their freedom and all the worries that come with being able to choose. Unlike modern fairy tales, To yell lacks a clear moral lesson, giving the viewer the hard work of coming to their own conclusions. It’s part of what makes To yell so alluring, as the film allows for multiple readings about vile work structures, the possibility of being happy in an abusive relationship, animal abuse, and even the meaning of freedom itself.


To yell hits theaters and on-demand on August 19.