SDFF: The King of Pigs
We Close Out our SDFF Coverage with its Most Brutal Offering, Because We’re Badass Like That.
The King of Pigs is an animated film from South Korea, with subtitles that must have been translated from English to South Korean and back to English again. Luckily the story is fairly easy to follow even though the subtitles aren’t.
The King of Pigs is about a 1st glade class (which looks like a 7th grade class) lorded over by bullies from a higher grade. Their methods of enforcing dominance include physical abuse, testicle fondling (while they do this, they laugh about the victim growing a boner), and verbal assaults that leave students scared for their well being (and their testicles).
I don’t know how bullies operate in today’s schools, but everything I saw in the film was excessively cruel, and made me feel really sorry for the victims. We quickly sympathize with Chul, who stands up to these jerks. But soon we learn Chul has major mental disturbances and comes from a broken home. He is part of a broken family, going to school in a broken system, trying to stand up for what is right. And as is generally the case with people like Chul, they get punished for doing it.
Two of the students call Chul the “King of Pigs” and all three end up becoming friends. The bonds of their friendship are tested by the bullies, but also by the lengths they are willing to go to achieve total freedom. One of their initiation rites includes killing a stray cat. It is Chul’s idea, designed to harden their minds for what they must do if they have any intention of stopping their oppressors.
I didn’t enjoy the cat killing scene, but I did appreciate the kinds of characters I was seeing. They weren’t black and white at all. Even when one of them refuses to kill the cat, he returns and does it anyway. Whether it is the pressure he feels or whether there is a part of him that really succumbs to the violence is not clear. When you are young, you do lots of things you are not sure about. It is a very gray area these characters live in, filled with a lot of confusion and trauma.
Even as adults, they haven’t entirely reconciled the past. Their story builds to a disturbing conclusion I won’t spoil, but it justifies the reason the “Pigs” come together years later.
It is not a particularly uplifting film. I think the subject matter is grounded in a more disturbing reality than something like, oh I don’t know, Up – which makes it less likely younger audiences will see it. At the same time, I can’t help but wonder what kids would think of it.
Not an easy film to sit through, but it is probably going to be one of the more surprising and shocking films to come out of the fest this year.
See it or Skip it
SCHEDULE – part of The Watching Hour
Friday, November 09, MIDNIGHT
Saturday, November 10, 9:30 PM