King of Pigs (2011) – NYAFF

83.

★★★★

Directed by: Sang-ho Yeon
Written by: Sang-ho Yeon
Starring: Ik-Joon Yang, Jung-se Oh and Hye-na Kim

Not just another teen angst movie

In the dark and gritty Korean animation, King of Pigs, Jong-suk (Yang) – a middle-school student in South Korea -sees  the bullies in his school as dogs, while the victims of their physical, verbal, and sexual violence, are pigs. Ruled by a hierarchy that places richer students at the top of the food chain, Jong-suk and his best friend Kyung-min (Oh) are crippled by the fear of being humiliated and beaten until Chul (Kim) appears and presents them with an alternative to being victimized. After fifteen years of silence, the two best friends meet and relive the horrors they experienced, realizing that the impact of their school days have followed them into their adult lives.

The premise for South Korea’s  first animation to hit Cannes is based on the real life experiences of director and writer Sang-ho Yeon, and the stories he saw and heard in pre-production. Using the violence within the school yard to represent the oppression of class structures in Korean society, King of Pigs is relentless and unmerciful in opening the vulnerable wounds of lower class families and critiquing the power struggles that precipitate cycles of violence through a heart-wrenching plot and an edgy visual style to go with it.

Despite feeling a little repetitive at times, King of Pigs offers intelligent and sharply observant views on themes and ideas as ugly as the minimalist visual style and rough grittiness in the film’s imagery. Blending memory, fantasy, and harsh reality together in an emotional roller-coaster of angst, guilt, and rage, King of Pigs will leave a deep impression on its audience without simply relying on brutality and violence to shock and turn stomachs.

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