A scene from “King of Pigs,” a multiple award-winning noir animation for adults by newcomer Yeun Sang-ho / Courtesy of KT&G Sangsang Madang
By Lee Hyo-won
By Lee Hyo-won
There is something frightfully disquieting and intense about “King of Pigs” that is quite difficult to nail down.
After sweeping three awards at the Busan International Film Festival in October, the decidedly noir animation for adults has been making a quiet stir since opening in theaters earlier this month. It became the first local indie film to attract 10,000 viewers in just two weeks, according to its distributor KT&G Sangsang Madang.
Director Yeun Sang-ho, however, expressed discomfort about the wide media attention that his feature film debut has attracted.
“The press has been saying extreme diligence and hard work have brought about this success, but I go around saying these days that I did a slapdash job,” said Yeun during a Q&A forum Tuesday at CGV Theater Apgujeong, Seoul.
“I felt uncomfortable about how our society justifies everything just because it was the fruit of hard labor.”
The film itself is far from comfortable to watch. A middle-aged man Gyeong-min (Oh Jeong-seo) impulsively kills his wife in a fit of rage after his business goes bankrupt. He suppresses his fury and seeks out his old middle school buddy Jong-seok (indie filmmaker-actor Yang Ik-june), and the two begin to reminisce about the old days.
The story takes viewers back 15 years. It explores the dark and almost savage political dynamics among a group of adolescent boys, akin to “The Lord of the Flies” or Yi Mun-yol’s “Our Twisted Hero.” “The strength of the narrative would make it apt for a live action film or even literary adaptation,” said Lee Dong-jin, who was also present at the event.
The two characters focus on a classmate, Cheol-I, who they looked up to, and try to unravel the shocking truth about incidents that ruled their lives at time. The film provides an almost brutal and incisive look at the nature of power, its allure and repulsion, as well as the psychology of public attitudes toward a hero figure.
Yeun said he was inspired by a dream he had while serving the mandatory two-year military service for Korean men. “In our society, the higher one’s class the stronger the solidarity tends to be because there are common interests,” said the filmmaker. “My goal was to show how easily what we call solidarity can fall apart through the film.”
A member of the audience commented on how the film is “perhaps overly devoid of hopes and dreams.”
“I did not want to make something like a drug,” Yeun said. “I wanted to create something like a vaccine rather than a sweet drug. I might make (stories that are warmer and more hopeful) 10, 20 years down the road, but I plan on making these type of movies.”
“King of Pigs” is rated 18 and over and is currently playing in theaters. Yeun will be holding Q&A sessions with the audience Friday at Cinecube, Gwanghwamun, after the 8:10 p.m. screening and Saturday at KT&G Sangsang Madang Cinema, Hongdae, following the 3 p.m. showing.