South Korean director Yeon Sang-ho’s The King of Pigs (Dwae-ji-ui wang, 2011) is a dark and harrowing depiction of school yard bullying and one of only a hand-held selection of full-length animated features at this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival.
Jong-Suk and Kyung-min are two childhood friends both experiencing problematic periods of their adulthood. They meet up at the behest of Kyung-min and spend a long, drunken evening sharing a meal and reminiscing over their troubled childhood and a former student by the name of Chul who changed their lives dramatically. However, unlike most school friends who meet to discuss their cherished adolescent memories, these boys are still haunted by the brutal bullying they both experienced at school with the psychological scars still very much apparent.
Despite being an animated feature, there’s certainly very little lightness or fantasy to be harvested from this gruelling examination of childhood bullying. Constructed with a gritty palette of sombre greys and oppressive, washed-out shades, The King of Pigs’ computer-generated artwork creates an inescapable ambience of despair, yet the film’s basic and stilted animation lacks any verve or energy, making the events, which unfold, feel flat and lifeless.
Concentrating on the pertinent and age-old issue of how violence often breeds more violence this critique of a vicious classroom hierarchy feels all too heavy handed to effectively resonate with its audience. An all-too repetitive narrative of continued classroom brutality lacks the character development required for us to engage with the film’s two central protagonists and whilst the bullying they encounter is horrific, it remains the only device used to evoke any semblance of sympathy towards them.
Further hindered by some sloppy subtitling which feels like its been churned out through Google Translate, this unrelenting and horrifying depiction of adolescent persecution never feels like it has a clear direction, making the film’s genuinely shocking finale lack any of the gravitas it should.
An overblown morality tale told through unimpressive animation, which fails to probably address its tentative subject matter, The King of Pigs is sadly a bloated and uninspiring foray that infuriates far more than it enlightens.
The 66th Edinburgh International Film Festival takes place from 20 June-1 July, 2012. For more of our EIFF 2012 coverage, simply follow this link.