When Kyung-min (Oh Jung-se) kills his wife, he turns to his high school best friend Jung Jong-suk (Yang Ik-june) after 15 years of silence. Kyung-min does not confide in his friend, rather the two talk about a formative event in their lives and the trauma they lived through in their past.
The King of Pigs truly is a film about high school bullying; both Kyung-min and Jung were ruthlessly targeted until Kim Chul (Kim Hye-na) arrives in the school and disrupts the hierarchy by standing up to the bullies. As well as this, the film is an exploration of what it takes to be a monster; he weaker kids are dragged along Kin Chul’s wake until he makes them decide which side of the divide they are on.
I am not sure if it is because of the harrowing Despues de Lucia (After Lucia), which was shown in Un Certain Regard at Cannes, but I found it hard to buy into another graphic film about the nature of bullying. Granted, The King of Pigs has a much further reaching narrative than After Lucia – and the characters actually respond to what is being done to them – but I found the film incredibly tough going.
There are interesting themes and moments in the film; Kim Chul is the most good looking of the three friends, but it also appears that his outer beauty is masking an inner monster. The method he uses to make his friends stronger – picking on something weaker than themselves – goes some way to outlining the nature of bullying.
The animation is great, and at times, so photo realistic that it is hard to tell how the film was created. That said, for all of the beauty of the night skies, the humans in the film are distorted into beasts of themselves as they struggle with their nature and rage. The film was created on a modest budget, and goes to prove that if a story is strong enough, and the film makers passionate enough, it is possible to create an affecting film and quality animation of comparatively little.
In all, The King of Pigs tackles a strong subject in a meaningful and complete manner. Issues with the film remain however; not least the fact that this is the second film on this theme that has screened at Cannes in recent days.