King of Pigs (The) AKA Dwae-ji-ui wang
R2 - United Kingdom - Terracotta Distribution
Review written by and copyright: Samuel Scott (19th April 2013).
The Film

When you put the words 'animation' and 'Asia' into somebody's head, the likelihood of them mentioning South Korea is rather unlikely. Although South Korea has long been used by Western studios to animate big shows such as "The Simpsons", the country has struggled to make its own unique stamp on the popular animation industry. However, this has started to change slightly over the last couple of years, starting with the reasonable success of "Porroro" and "Origami Warriors" in early 2011, followed quickly by the box office success of "Leafie" later on in 2011 - a success that has helped push financing for other domestic South Korean animated features. 2011 also saw the arrival of Yeon Sang-ho's "The King of Pigs", which like "Leafie" made a significant impact in its home country. The difference between "Leafie" and "The King of Pigs" however, was the success on the festival circuit of the latter throughout 2012. It became the first Korean animated movie to feature in the Director's Fortnight of the Festival de Cannes and also featured at the Edinburgh Film Festival as well as several dedicated Eastern festivals around the world.

The synopsis from Terracotta reads:
After murdering his wife, Hwang Kyung-min, a businessman on the verge of bankruptcy, finds an old classmate, Jung Jong-suk, whom he hasn't seen for fifteen years. During a reunion dinner they look back on their school days, hiding their present situations. Back then there were class distinctions among the pupils. The elite students 'The Dogs' rich, successful and particularly cruel, exercised a reign of terror over the weaker, poorer students 'The Pigs'. Jong-suk and Kyung-min were powerless against the 'dogs'. When Kim Chul, one of their fellow pigs, stood up, he fast became their last hope to end the circle of fear. Fifteen years later, Chul remains a hero. But behind his figure, the two men recall the murky story of their bond and return to the site where the most shocking truth of what happened there is finally revealed.

"The King of Pigs" is an interesting movie that uses the way different classes of society treat each other from an early school-age in order to tell a story of bullying, struggle, and at a bit of a push, friendship. The movie is rather brutal throughout, not holding back on fights in the classroom and suicide, but rather than the violence being explicit just for the hell of it, it is used in an effective manner, one that helps the viewer live through the torment of the 'pigs' from the 'dogs' as they go through school. I did find that at times it was a little repetitive in that the 'dogs' beat up the 'pigs', king of the 'pigs' beats up the 'dogs' and then a teacher comes and punishes the king of the 'pigs', but it was also important to keep the story moving and show the increasingly systematic abuse of the poorer kids and their mental wellbeing.

The style of animation can be a distraction at times, with the low budget constraints obviously affecting how much detail could be used for backgrounds, sometimes making the feature feel a little static. However, one thing I enjoyed during some of the fighting scenes was the way the feature was animated to make it feel as though the camerawork is using a handheld 'shakey-cam' effect (if it were live action), reminiscent of many movies today. Also, colours used were well selected to go with the emotions the viewer should be feeling.

Although at times flawed, "The King of Pigs" is dark, tragic, compelling and complex with an ending that is sure to take a few people by surprise. It's certainly a movie that should be viewed at least once, and I would expect the majority of fans of more dark, adult based animation to enjoy it. I can't think of any features quite like it, though tone wise it has plenty of similarities with "Princess" (2006), which I also recommend.

Video

Terracotta Distribution have presented the feature in the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 which has been anamorphically enhanced. It is generally problem free, with colours sharp and vivid, especially the various darker shades throughout. There were some horizontal lines during a couple of scenes in the final third, most notably on Kyung-min's suit on the rooftop - otherwise, an above average transfer here.

Audio

Just one audio track here: Korean Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo. Seperation is minimal but there is no damage at all on the track with zero hiss and no dropouts or pops. There are one or two moments where I found the soundtrack to overpower the dialogue, but since I don't understand Korean and was using subtitles, it was no real problem to me. Subtitles are in English and optional, clear and concise, easy to read and move at a good pace.

Extras

We start the extras with an introduction to the feature by director Yeun Sang-ho (0:54). Not advertised on the press release or on the disc, this plays when you start the movie and isn't available from the extras menu. Although short and not very informative, it is always good to see a director who appears to be humble and thankful at the opportunities he has been afforded and thanking those who have bought the disc.

Next up we have an interview with director Yeun Sang-ho and various voice actors (13:52). We learn about the decision of casting a female to voice a high-school boy (quite common in the industry), films that helped shape the feature ("Mystic River" was a large influence) and how the cast members feel about the characters they portray.

Extract from Dubbing Session (1:19) simply shows footage of Yang Ik-june and Oh Oh Jeong-se in the voicing studio as they do their lines. Interesting, but I'd have liked to see some information on the technical side of things.

A Sketch Gallery (1:24) shows us some, well, sketches of the film and is no different from any other slideshow.

Cast Biographies (3 pages) are quite light on info, generally half a page each, but a good read.

"About Terracotta" text notes (1 page) is essentially a page of weblinks where you can discover more about the distributor and their festival.

"What is Terracotta Festival?" vignette (1:54) is a quick informative look at the annual festival which is growing every year. Anyone with an interest in Eastern cinema and who can get to London should look into going.

We finish the extras with a series of trailers
Start-up Trailers:
- "Tokyo Fish Attack" (0:36)
- "Antique Bakery" (1:51)
- "Breathless" (1:57)
- "Crocodile" (1:15)
Bonus Trailers:
- "Tokyo Fish Attack" (0:36)
- "Antique Bakery" (1:51)
- "Breathless" (1:57)
- "Crocodile" (1:15)
Theatrical Trailer (0:59)

Overall

The Film: B Video: B- Audio: B- Extras: C- Overall: B-

 


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