The King of Pigs

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 July, 2012, 12:00am


Much has been said about Silenced, the South Korean film based on the real-life sex abuse of students in a school for the hearing-impaired. It led to a retrial of the culprits, but also faced criticism for making a melodrama out of something much more severe. There were compromises, with moments of comedy and scenes of unwarranted violence clumsily incorporated into the proceedings.

The King of Pigs is much more uncompromising and unforgiving. Yeon Sang-ho's animated film is about childhood bullying and how it shapes the minds of its victims. The film, revolving around a group of rich students and their powerless classmates, reveals the yawning gap between the haves and the have-nots in South Korean society - and how resistance only makes the situation escalate.

The film begins in the present, after businessman Kyung-min murders his wife. After cleaning up, he calls his friend, Jong-suk. They recall their student days when they were subjected to violence by classmates whose misdeeds went unpunished because they were the scions of powerful clans.

Dubbed 'pigs' by their tormentors, the pair turn to Kim Chul for help - and Kim deals with the bullies by becoming more malevolent than they are. This approach stuns the friends and warps their minds so that they become anti-social individuals with skewed moral judgment.

The visual structure reminds of Ari Folman's Waltz with Bashir. That animated Israeli film revolved around two ex-conscripts trying to find the source of their present-day trauma through their roles in the Phalangist massacre in two Palestinian refugee camps in 1982.

The King of Pigs is not as explicitly political as Folman's film but it speaks volumes about dysfunctional human relationships defined by youthful experiences - a Lord of the Flies set in South Korea.

The King of Pigs, Aug 3, 9.45pm, Broadway Cinematheque; part of the IndPolar animation festival