the professional worrywarts really wanted to end bullying, they would start
subsidizing karate lessons for the small and less assertive, but it seems they’d
rather wring their hands—on national TV.
Yes, it is a problem in many cases, but the peculiarly American
disinclination towards hierarchy is positive countervailing influence. This is not necessarily the case in
Korea. What we might call bullying is
the institutionalized order of things in Yeun Sang-ho’s thematically mature
animated feature, The King of Pigs (trailer here), which screens
during this year’s New York Asian Film Festival.
King opens, it appears safe to say
two formerly bullied grown adults have not broken the chain of abuse. Both Hwang Kung-min and Jung Jong-suk are
having bad days—lives might be more accurate.
Finding himself at a particularly low point, Hwang reaches out to Jung,
whom he has not talked to in years.
Eventually, we will learn why they drifted apart.
wants to talk about Kim Chul, the mysterious transfer student they befriended
in their middle school years. Though
they came from different backgrounds, Hwang and Jung were both “Pigs,” the
proles of their school, who were merciless picked on by the ruling “Dogs,” by
virtue of their superior social status or brute strength. An outsider in every sense, Kim threatens
their established order like a violently rage-stoked James Dean.
obvious reasons, Hwang and Jung fall under the spell of their rebellious
protector. However, the deck is stacked
against Kim by the Dogs and their enablers.
As he realizes the futility of his position, Kim really starts to get
dark and stormy.
This is no after school special. King easily features some of the
festival’s most brutal beatdowns.
Playing the Battle Royale would be like a reprieve for these kids. Yet, as surely exaggerated as it must be, one
cannot help feel Yeun is tapping into something very real and deep in his
countrymen’s collective psyche.
at times hallucinatory, Yeun’s animation is mostly straight forward and in the
viewer’s face, keeping the film rooted in a sense of urgency. His characters are profoundly flawed and
painfully human. Actions have
consequences that ripple outward, impacting others, years after the fact. There is also no small degree of class warfare
at play, notwithstanding Hwang’s relatively well-to-do, but socially shunned
Karaoke owning family. Yet, viewers can
also see how Jung’s class envy metastasizes into something quite ugly and
Holding the distinction of being the first
Korean animated feature to screen at Cannes, the angry but cinematic King is absolutely not for
children. It lands a heck of a punch
though. Despite the somewhat
inconsistent pacing, it is viscerally effective. Recommended for hardy animation fans, The King of Pigs screens as part of the
2012 NYAFF this coming Saturday (7/7) and Sunday (7/8), with
screenwriter-director Yeun in attendance both dates.
Labels: Animated films, Korean Cinema, NYAFF '12