DEFINITION January 2022 – Web


The world was blown away by the Korean Netflix sensation Squid Game. But it’s the astonishing sets illuminating this brilliantly original production that have helped it soar into stardom Setting Squid Game

WORDS. Verity Butler

E very time it seems that the latest Netflix phenomenon can’t be topped, another show comes along and blows it out of the water. From Money Heist to Breaking Bad , A Series of Unfortunate Events to Sex Education , it’s undeniable that the streaming giant is a trailblazer for atypical and eccentric production. But its latest sensation, Squid Game , enters a whole new arena of extraordinary creativity. After the success of Korean Oscar-winner Parasite , the west finally seems to have opened its eyes to the exceptional talent and content that Korea has been pumping out for a long time.

Squid Game focuses on Player 456, Seong Gi-hun, performed masterfully by Lee Jung-jae – a likeable and enigmatic protagonist, despite his clear flaws and self-destructive personality. The story sees him enter the dystopian Squid Game arena, as one of 456 destitute players, vying to win a colossal glass piggy bank of money. To be exact, 45.6 billion South Korean won. It doesn’t take them long to realise they are part of something far more sinister than traditional youthful pastimes, and that it is a Hunger Games - style bloodbath – each death dolloping another 100,000 won into the bank.

From cutting a perfect shape out of a honeycomb in a gigantic playground, to a deadly tug of war, the childlike imagery makes it all the more chilling. One would think the creator and director of Squid Game , Hwang Dong-hyuk, would be filling his own glass piggy bank with cash after its unprecedented success – especially considering that it recently surpassed Bridgerton to become the most successful Netflix series of all time. However, he has been dealt an unfair hand. He first wrote the series way back in 2009, and was rejected over and over again by different streaming platforms. He was only signed by Netflix in 2019, in a move to ‘expand its foreign offerings’. Yet it seems the broadcasting behemoth has reaped the benefits of the comparatively small contract that was originally signed – having not paid him any additional profits from its one-of-a- kind success. To recognise Dong-hyuk’s masterpiece as his own achievement, rather than Netflix’s, it’s time to take apart the elements of Squid Game that make it so groundbreaking. Namely, its rich, magical-realist, life- sized sets – their striking nature a catalyst for the series’ achievements within the production space. SCALING UP It seems impossible to believe that CGI or special effects were scarcely used when creating the brightly coloured and unique sets seen throughout the series. Instead, establishing a whole new benchmark for dystopian production, almost every single set was built to scale. A stunning example of this is the set for the third challenge, tug of war. The players compete on towering platforms, wherein the team that pulls the

“It seems impossible to believe that CGI or special effects were scarcely used when creating the brightly coloured and unique sets”


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