The King of PigsCultureCinemaMovie reviews
Inequality is a worldwide phenomenon, and this is South Korean, Yeon Sang-ho’s vision of this social plague.
With his first feature movie writer and director Yeon wanted to stand out from the childish animation movies habitually produced in South Korea. In that, he surely succeeded. In these 97 minutes of rage, the young director, who was in charge of most of the movie (screenplay, storyboard, editing …) seems to channel all the violence of Korean cinema. The plot is quite simple: two former high school classmates, Kyung-min, a bankrupt businessman and Jong-suk, a failed novelist, reunite after fifteen years. During that evening, they look back on their school days, keeping quiet about how catastrophic their present lives are. With systematic use of flashbacks, the spectator is brought back to their past to witness the constant bullying they faced. These boys, and most of their classmates, come from poor and oppressed families: they’re the “pigs” that metaphorically serve as food for the “dogs” – children from rich families. But one day, Chul-yi, another student, rises against the bullies, bringing hope that things could change. However, the only way to a better life seems to be to beat the “dogs” at their own game by becoming a monster …
A festival favourite (Busan International Film Festival; Director’s Fortnight at the Festival de Cannes; Terracotta Touring Festival; Edinburgh International Film Festival), The King of Pigs is a very adult piece of animation, which harshly criticises inequalities of age, gender and class. The microcosm of the school hierarchy seems to be a perfect portrait of Korean society: everybody has to obey to be bigger and richer. From the first minute to the very end of the movie, the director forbids the audience to come up for air, and any humour is definitely out of the question. And it’s too bad, because even if this wish for revolution is praiseworthy, the one-dimensional aspect of the characters and the over simplistic animation eventually become boring. This all too repetitive brutality undermines the film’s overall impact, and the result is unfortunately a little grotesque.
Nonetheless, this bleak animation feature should be seen – it’s a good debut for the promising Korean director. Yeon Sang-Ho’s film is not for the faint hearted, but it might be the one to awaken the Korean animation market.
The King of Pigs is released nationwide on 25th January 2013.
Watch the trailer for The King of Pigs (Yeon Sang-Ho) here: