Pause It: The King of Pigs

'Pause It: The King of Pigs'

Our September theme of the month, Back to School, continues with The King of Pigs (2011).

PAUSE IT: What do you see? It’s an odd scene. Menacing pigs, their eyes aglow, stare back at us in Yeon Sang-ho’s The King of Pigs. The animated still is one that elicits such raw emotion in the viewer in part because of its surreal, if not nightmarish, quality. But what makes the image effective? A mix of both real and unreal qualities, animation can sometimes be used to emphasize cinematic attributes in a way traditional live-action photography cannot. Note both the composition and the use of light in the still. Compositionally speaking, our eyes are drawn into the image due to its dynamism. See how the variation of height and depth makes for a more compelling image. Foreground, middleground, and background as well as both high and low vertical planes create differentiation among the standing pigs and the cowering students seated at their desk. This is not at all dissimilar to how a good live-action director might position actors in a frame. The same holds true for the image’s use of light which might be called high contrast or low key. The white light emanating from the room’s back window is intensified or what is commonly referred to as “blown out.” At one time considered the mark of a bad cinematographer, the “blown out” window look has in recent years developed a long list of both industry and independent proponents. You’ll find the technique is used in everything from action films to horror movies to create a heightened atmosphere. Yet here in The King of Pigs, we find the light being employed in an almost dream-like fashion. There is little if any consistency as to which portions of the screen are lit versus those that are left in shadow. If the back window is our perceived source of light, then the areas facing away from that light source (the right side of the frame) should be left dark — at least if the animator is going for the truest realism. Instead the frame clearly shows three of the pigs’ faces bathed in a curious unsourced light. A feat which could not be realistically possible. Nevertheless, the still is a great distillation of what can make animation, when done well, so compelling to engage with.

The King of Pigs (2011)
Director: Sang-ho Yeon
Cast: Kim Hye-na, Kim Kkobbi, Oh Jeong-se, Park Hee-von, Yang Ik-june
You can take The King of Pigs home on DVD and Blu-ray.

September 27, 2017

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