Buried under the noise of the festival’s many overrated titles was South Korean Yeon Sang-ho’s second animated feature The Fake. While his debut The King of Pigs (2011), a bleak chronicle of juvenile bullying, was well received when it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival’s parallel Directors’ Fortnight section in 2011, he has easily surpassed this with a more potent tale on the vagaries of morality. Hats off to Toronto for securing Yeon’s self-assured second film as a World Premiere.
In an unswept hamlet, grifters dressed as evangelicals arrive to convince its residents to decamp for a dam construction. Their plan is to siphon off the villagers’ compensation monies through church donations by using a well-liked but clueless clergyman to mask the stench. Only the community’s violent boozer (voiced by Yeon regular, actor-filmmaker Yang Ik-june) sees through the con. When none of the faithful—not least his battered wife and daughter—believe his doubts, he decides on a fateful course of vigilantism.
Although Yeon serves up another super-depressing story, it’s an urgent one that addresses the times—and not just the abuses in the name of organized religion either. Roundly buttressed by skilful character animation and voice acting, The Fake is as ambiguous as it is haunting by the time the credits appear. For this, it ranks among the year’s best films. Incidentally, it pairs well with another of Toronto’s picks this year: Filipino Lav Diaz’s Norte, The End of History (2013), a similarly bruising parable about the deadly nature of truth and its chronic inability to free.