Dir: Yeun Sang-ho, 2013
Businessman Kyung-min and writer Jong-suk meet for a drink fifteen years after they left middle school. Kyung-min has something on his mind and soon they regress to the memories of school where they were bullied by the social elite until Chul entered their lives.
The melodrama in Asian cinema has long been prevalent though nonetheless applicable to the intriguing stories that emerge from the East and Yeun Sang-ho’s The King of Pigs is no different. Sang-ho clearly has a message to deliver and conveys it through his earthy capturing of middle school behaviour while embellishing the reality with unguarded heroism. Sang-ho revels in his wisely-chosen topic almost a little too much, refusing to develop the nature of the film until the closing minutes (and even then, not enough). The contrast between the reserved and the bold remains, for the most part of the film, unexplored until the final act – the exception being an all-too familiar Hamlet-esque ghost cat which haunts Jong-suk.
Perhaps the most frustrating element of The King of Pigs is its conservative animation. While the physical representations of violence and morality are brutal, the style is almost non-existent. Animation is a technique which purges the filmmaker of visual restrictions and so when filmmakers opt to engage in real-life scenarios via animation, the subject matter is liberated in ways that it generally would not be. However in contrast to films such as Persepolis or Waltz with Bashir, The King of Pigs fails to experiment, leaving the audience to wonder why the film was even animated to begin with.
The King of Pigs is a stimulating and unconventional tale of childhood torment and its effects on the human psyche. Unfortunately, Sang-ho drives the film through flashbacks which ultimately lack the conviction of the present-day characters and drag the meek 97-minute running time on a tad too long.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆