The King of Pigs

Mon, Feb 18, 2013, 00:00

Directed by Yeun Sang-ho. Starring Yang Ik-june, Oh Jung-se, Kim Hye-na, Kim Kkobbi Flowerain, Park Hee-von Cineworld, 9pm ****

If Oldboy director Chan wook-Park made cartoons, they’d likely look like this brilliantly caustic anime. Jong-suk, a frustrated ghostwriter, is surprised when gets a call from former school chum Kyung-min. The latter, now CEO of his own business, wants to talk about old times, especially their formative middle-school years. Sadly, these recollections are far from golden. Both boys were bullied – physically, sexually, emotionally – in a playground where they were “pigs” to the “dogs” of a more privileged social class.

It requires a genuine psychopath to stand up to the bigger boys: enter Kim Chul, an impoverished new kid, and a bottom-feeder by the rigid standards of the schoolyard hierarchy. Charismatic and troubled, he rushes in to defend weaker classmates but thinks nothing of doing horrid things to a stray cat. In order to defeat monsters, reasons Kim, one must, in turn, become monstrous.

The stark lines and haunting facial expressions that define The King of Pigs are far from studio Ghibli pretty. But they do offer a brutal poetry that’s all their own. The style complements the content. Writer-director Yeun’s coruscating tale of childhood traumas recreates the sensation of recovering repressed memories. Violent and operatic, The King of Pigs has bigger things to say about social inequality and masters and slaves. But it’s the little details, such as the ghastly aftermath of unwittingly wearing girls’ trousers to school, that linger.

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