The King of Pigs (3 stars)

The King Of Pigs

Korean adult animation with a thought-provoking storyline and great attention to detail

The first feature from award-winning shorts director Yeon Sang-ho has a visual look reminiscent of a Studio Ghibli production allied to a narrative in the classic film noir manner. Bankrupt businessman Hwang Kyung-min murders his wife and then reaches out to Jung Jong-suk, a childhood friend he has not spoken to in fifteen years. When they meet for dinner, a series of flashbacks returns us to their childhood when they were both at the mercy of a rich, smug elite who ruled their school. Weaker students, known as 'pigs', were subjected to relentless humiliation at the hands of 'the dogs'. The only possibility of salvation lay in Kim Chul, a two-fisted champion of the underdog.

The trauma of childhood bullying haunts the adult lives of the victims in an ambitious South Korean animated feature with echoes of Lord Of The Flies. A clear-eyed narrative confronts the cruelty of children whilst offering an angry critique of a rigidly heirarchical society. Characters are confronted with real moral choices and there is a subtle examination of our expectations of what a hero should be. Like many a film noir it also ends by revealing the truth about a key incident that has assumed a status similar to the heroic legend at the heart of John Ford's The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

The film's impact is dulled by the overwrought tone of the final scenes and a repetitive feel to confrontations between vulnerable schoolchildren and their wicked classroom oppressors. It still impresses by the visual means it uses to convey intense emotion - hands vibrate in anger and bullies seem to visibly deflate when anyone confronts them. The thought-provoking storyline and attention to detail in the animation ensures King Of Pigs retains a strong dramatic wallop.

Selected release from Fri 25 Jan.

THE KING OF PIGS Trailer (English Subtitles)

The King of Pigs (Dae-gi-eui Wang)

  • 3 stars
  • 2011
  • South Korea
  • 1h 37min
  • Directed by: Yeon Sang-ho
  • Written by: Yeon Sang-Ho
  • Cast: Ik-june Yang, Jeong-se Oh, Hye-na Kim, Hee-von Park, Kkobbi Kim
  • UK release: 25 January 2013

Hwang Kyung-min murders his wife and then meets a friend he hasn't spoken to since his schooldays, when they were both bullied. Yeon's film confronts the cruelty of children while angrily critiquing a rigidly hierarchical society. Despite the overwrought tone of the final scenes, it carries an impressive dramatic wallop.