The King of Pigs is a feature animation production from Korea. Premiering in the past week at the respected and wide-ranging Busan International Film Festival (Busan, South Korea), the film is a riveting, violent, and altogether awesome indie production. Awesome, however, here takes its more antiquated meaning: that of an inexorable force of natural destruction. The King of Pigs, co-written and directed by Yeon Sang-ho, is a restless character drama about a pair of failed adults reflecting on their lives as troubled middle-school students. Peppering their tales of loneliness and loathing, hidden beneath the surface, are emotions and memories, seeped in a peculiar mix of anger, pride, and guilt.
As such, it should then come as no surprise that more favorable economic models have come by way of regional streaming agreements and low-key home video exports to neighboring markets.
The King of Pigs, produced by Studio DADASHOW, will eventually turn to such methods in order to earn a profit on its meager production budget, but until then, the festival circuit awaits.
In the film, Hwang Kyeong-min, in his mid thirties, has just witnessed the family business go under. The distraught CEO releases his frustration by brutally killing his wife. Throughout his life, Mr. Hwang has never really been in a position of meaningful power, and when he has, authority has apparently been quite fleeting.
Now needing reprieve from two tragedies, the businessman turns to Jeong Jong-seok, a friend from middle school whom he hasn't seen in more than fifteen years. Only, Mr. Jeong's life isn't so rosy either. The man, likewise in his thirties, suffers from an immense inferiority complex that bleeds into every facet of his personal and professional life (interestingly, as a ghostwriter).
Kyeong-min and Jong-seok are failed adults; the two men each struggle mightily to maintain the simplest of relationships (which often end in physical abuse), have little practical experience in managing their own finances, and have no knowledge of how to pursue their dreams (assuming they still have any). The King of Pigs asks how the two men got to this point; that is to say, find out what occurred in their youth, what served as a catalyst to turn, propel, or sanction any of their numerous emotional and psychological neuroses. The catalyst, the film finds, in part, was a boy named Kim Chul.
Kim Chul ponders his next move (top);
and a look at director Yeon Sang-ho.
At school, the privileged kids were referred to as "dogs," reflecting their pedigree and slavish obedience to one another; the poor kids, director Yeon's "have nots," were called "pigs" by the better offs, for equally obvious reasons.
The Korean film embraces an animated style of violence so realistic, it's almost carnal. The children were ordinary, weak, and poor -- all attributes ripe for bullying of increasingly violent and humiliating proportion.
To make things worse, the adults around Kyeong-min, Jong-seok, and many of their peers, actively encouraged the verbal, physical, and psychological abuse .
That was until Kim Chul transferred in. Kim Chul didn't take anything abuse from anyone, preferring to meet the violence and cruelty of his richer peers with equal rage and aggression. The status quo of the school suddenly ruptures. Now, Kyeong-min, Jong-seok, and the rest of the downtrodden pigs have a leader, an idol, a hero with which they can follow and invest all their aspirations and anxieties. Kim Chul, who came from a broken home, essentially views his irrational comprehension of violence as necessary.... and it shows.