- FILM & PEOPLE
- K-Cinema Library
THE KING OF PIGS
Feb 19, 2019
- Writerby Pierce Conran
2011｜96 MIN | Animation, Thriller
DIRECTOR YEON Sang-ho
CAST YANG Ik-june, OH Jung-se, KIM Kkot-bi, KIM Hye-na
RELEASE DATE November 3, 2011
CONTACT INDIESTORY Inc.
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Before he conquered the world with the horror-thriller smash hit TRAIN TO BUSAN (2016), director YEON Sang-ho conquered the festival circuit with his searing animated debut The King of Pigs (2011), a dark and uncompromising take on high school bullying and its toll on adult life that debuted at the Busan International Film Festival before securing an invite to the Directors’ Fortnight section of the Cannes Film Festival in 2012.
The King of Pigs begins with a reunion between former high school classmates Kyung-min, now a businessman, and struggling writer Jong-suk. As they reminisce over their school days they quickly focus on the cruelty that ran rampant among their classmates, particularly the vicious group known as the ‘dogs’. These ‘dogs’, through a hierarchical order that extended across the school, exercised a reign of terror over their fellow classmates, dubbed the ‘pigs’. Only one boy, KIM Chul, stood up to these bullies and even now, 15 years later, he remains a hero in their eyes, but the full story isn’t so simple.
Compared to the high-budget animated content coming out of Japan or America, The King of Pigs is a more simply drawn affair, though in using a pared-down aesthetic it allows the story’s themes to come through quickly and clearly. Hinging on the divisions of social hierarchy, YEON’s tale spins a cruel take on well-worn themes of school bullying, boiling down the protagonists to allegorical beasts.
In YEON’s dog-eat-dog world, the only way for the weak to survive is for them to shed their innocence and turn into beasts themselves, a change that is not limited to the classroom as it haunts them throughout their lives until things once again come to a head during a spontaneous class reunion, the first meeting between Kyung-min and Jong-suk since their unhappy school days. At that time their savior, Chul, was a damaged young boy from a broken home whose violent inclinations were even more terrifying than that of their antagonizers.
Following The King of Pigs, YEON delivered another acclaimed animation, the gritty The Fake (2013), which was covered in K-Cinema Library several weeks ago, before moving on to the animated horror Seoul Station (2016) and its live action blockbuster companion TRAIN TO BUSAN (2016), which became the most successful Korean film of all time overseas, with global box office receipts exceeding USD 130 million.