Playing in competition at the Sydney Film Festival, The King Of Pigs is likely to be one of the more confronting and unforgettable films in the program. Korean films, especially man of those that have managed to jump the gap into the western market, are typically uncompromising and envelope pushing and this is certainly no exception. Writer and director Sang-ho Yeon has created a brutal, bleak and brilliant look at the lasting impacts of anger and violence, and the animalistic pursuit of social dominance.
Wasting no time in its unrelenting brutality, the opening frames are of a strangled corpse and a man sobbing in the shower before nightmarish visions from his past invade his apartment. This is clearly a long way from any animated features coming out of Hollywood studios. High school friends Kyung-min and Jong-suk reunite after many years with memories of high school that have left deep wounds. The film explores the brutality the pair suffered at the hands of school bullies, and the reciprocated violence by their new troubled friend Chul.
Whilst the violence and unrelenting dire circumstances are challenging, the most disturbing, and genius, aspect of the film is the way in which in brings the audience in its cycle of violence and anger. With every punch and insult, we want tit-for-tat against those responsible. When the bullied stand up with clenched fists and anger in their eyes, the impending violence is almost a tranquil release for the audience. It’s an uncomfortable but tactfully engaging position for the audience to be in. The analogy of the dominant, the dogs, and the subordinates, the pigs, is a provocative exploration of human weakness in our animalistic fight for survival, power and control.
Constantly shocking in both its content and the twists in its story, The King Of Pigs is not for the faint of heart, but hugely rewarding for an audience ready to be assaulted.