Chungmuro/Film News
Lee Jung-jin, Jo Min-soo as Pieta’s twisted mother-son pair
by | August 3, 2012 | 96 Comments

Huh. So my first thought on seeing this movie poster for Pieta was, “Doesn’t that… kind of… border on sacrilegious?”

Followed immediately by, “Oh, it’s Kim Ki-duk. The world makes sense again.” At left, the poster bears the copy “Two people who can never receive forgiveness.” At right, another tagline reads, “Lord have mercy.”

That’s not to knock Kim, who is, I think, a skilled filmmaker. It’s just that I often have this dual reaction to a lot of his works where I feel both extremes—like and dislike, attraction and aversion. Some of his films are simply brilliant; the almost-wordless 3 Iron is my favorite. And then, sometimes I feel like he’s perverse for the sake of perverse—either deliberately provocative, or intentionally impenetrable under the banner of art. Ultimately I figure the world needs storytellers like Kim, but I don’t have to love all his stories.

Pieta evokes that same split reaction in me: part of me is impressed with how grim the story goes, and part of me is repulsed. Watching the trailer below, I basically dropped my jaw halfway through it, said “OH SHIT,” and gaped for the rest. It’s seriously dark stuff.

Pieta is Kim’s eighteenth film and stars Lee Jung-jin (Runaway Plan B, Wonderful Radio) and Jo Min-soo (Will It Snow For Christmas). As alluded to in the title, they portray (twisted) representations of the Pieta duo, aka Madonna and Jesus. In the preview, Jo Min-soo tracks down Lee Jung-jin, kneels at his feet, and apologizes for abandoning him. Presumably this happened when he was a young child because he doesn’t recognize her, and without much reaction he asks, “Who are you?” and shoves her out his door.

Mother returns, trying to reestablish a connection, and it looks like his temper finally snaps. He pushes her down, his hand trailing up her leg, and sneers, “You say I came out of here? …then can I go back in?” (Commence jaw drop.) Then… yeah, you can probably infer the rest.

Perhaps Son has a change of heart, or maybe it’s seeing his mother come to peril that brings him around, because later he begs, “I’m sorry! Just save my mother.” At the end of the trailer, he asks, “Are you really the mother who abandoned me?” And she growls, “Devil bastard.”

Yeah, there’s a reason why the early tagline reads “Eleven years after Bad Guy, an even badder man arrives.” You don’t say. Yeesh. The official press release describes the plot vaguely and hints at “a cruel secret” that throws them into chaos. Even more chaos, I guess, ’cause they sure don’t look like they’re living cheery lives before the reunion.

Pieta has been accepted to Venice International Film Festival (which is where Kim Ki-duk won four awards in 2004 for 3 Iron). The film will screen first in Venice on August 29, followed by its release at home on September 6.

As for me, I need to go rewatch Runaway Plan B now to remind myself that I love Lee Jung-jin. And to stop feeling so creeped out.

Via Hankook Ilbo


96 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. almea

    Gosh, I’m curious about this movie, but I’m not sure if I can get past its icky premise…

  2. Laya

    This kind of makes me think of the Filipino drama of the same name. 😮 But I guess it would just be a superficial resemblance.

    • 2.1 mary

      I remember that too.

      Isn’t the son a criminal/gangster of sorts there? Funny I don’t recall people protesting about it. You’d think it’d be a bigger issue, Philippines being mostly a Catholic country and all…

    • 2.2 weenhiecookies

      Yeah, the first thing came to my mind after seeing the picture and the “pieta” was the Philippine show Pieta. I watched that show and it has a good story. Well let’s see with this one.

  3. Betty

    I will not watch the trailer, and probably the movie as I will not be able to unsee it…

    • 3.1 MsGB

      I’m with you Betty. Just reading the description makes my skin crawl.

    • 3.2 Hafy

      Same here…. >_<" Even reading the description made me OMG! It sound interesting tho but not my kind of movie..

  4. True2u

    i LOVE picture # 8

    • 4.1 True2u

      O.O!!!!!!!!!! I only looked at the pictures then commented, but i read a 3 comments below and went to read it and was like o.O. Yeah, count me OUT!!!!!!!!! blasphemous indeed!!!

  5. HeadsNo2

    Holy incest, Batman!

    • 5.1 YY

      Hi Heads! Loving your Dr Jin recaps, and speaking of which, I’d rather see a 100 episodes of Dr Jin in slow mo, than watch the trailer of this icky bleahy yucky show.

    • 5.2 ravens_nest


  6. Zoee

    The trailer freaked me out… Idk if I would want to watch the movie.

  7. bookcase

    No, I’m catholic, so I won’t be watching this. It is blasphemous and I’m sorry the Venice Film Festival is including this at all.

  8. Mar

    I’m with you Javabeans! Pulling up Runaway and Bottom of the Ninth, 2 Outs right now chanting “Just look at the pretty happy making Lee Jung-jin!”

    Then again this is a great opportunity for him to practice/stretch acting chops.

  9. Yoori

    “…then can I go back in?” .. UH did I just saw what I saw in the trailer?! o.O

    And to add to the shock reaction … LJJ’s ugly perm/crimped hair!!!!!

    • 9.1 True2u

      just reading it was ENOUGH!!!!!!!!!! i can’t even view the trailer o.O!!!!

      “You say I came out of here? …then can I go back in?” i was convulsing like no other!! My sister even asked me if i was ok!! -_-

      • 9.1.1 becca_boo

        On the upside (??), I think we’ve finally found someone creepier than Shunji in Gaksital.

        • True2u

          creepier is NOT the word for this!! -_- I can’t even think of a word to describe this!!

          • becca_boo

            I wanted to avoid swearing. Maybe I should have gone with “repulsive”?

          • True2u

            @ becca yeah that is much better!!! ^^

      • 9.1.2 meecheellee

        No offense, I loved him in Runaway, but this… I- I don’t- I don’t even… uhhh…. Lee Jung Jin… ermm… /awkwardly reads on…/ Ehh, prob not watching this film.

      • 9.1.3 diorama

        Dude, that is SO unpalatable. Kim Ki Duk’s films are like that for me – they’re discomfiting at best and nauseating at worst. (Not to say they don’t have artistic merit, because i suppose they do, but I’m not a fan of experiences like that.) Saw Phungsan Dog a few weeks ago because Yoon Kye Sang was in it. Suffice to say, I had to watch a happy movie after that to erase the torture images.

        • jedidiah

          I can’t able to finished Phungsan Dog! It’s so dark, even for to see Yoon Kye Sang. I’m prefer to Rewatched Greatest Love again ^.^” Kim Ki Duk film not my genre, I remember when watched The Vengeance Lady with Lee Young Ae as the lead, it’s so creepy!!! I don’t know Phungsan Dog was his film, if I knew it, maybe I wouldn’t tried to watched it.

      • 9.1.4 distractjs

        I agree, just reading the synopsis almost made me throw up in my mouth.

      • 9.1.5 YY

        So sick when I read that part. A sick mind would only come out with that kind of line.

  10. 10 becca_boo

    Well, this is just wrong on so many levels. I can’t even name them all.

    Not watching the trailer; definitely not watching the movie. I think I’ll just stick with 3-Iron (one of my favorites), and, like others, I’m going to be getting back to Runaway and Bottom of the 9th, With 2 Outs. I love Lee Jung-jin, but I prefer him sweet and non-creepy, thankyouverymuch.

  11. 11 VanillaSalt


  12. 12 Sabah

    Hmm. I understand the need for artists who push the boundaries wherein sometimes the success is just the process and journey itself, rather than the result.

    From watching and liking a few of the Kin Ki Duk’s films I also know that creating a comprehensible trailer for them would be impossible. I don’t think you can encompass his intentions in a couple of minutes of scenes clipped together. Not that I am saying anyone should push themselves into watching something that would disturb or offend them. I am just saying that maybe there is more depth, some greater picture within the portrait of two people that he wishes to present and can only be seen when viewed as a whole.

    Still, when the emperor looks naked it’s because he isn’t wearing any clothes.

    • 12.1 Sabah

      *Kim Ki Duk. Apologies.

    • 12.2 becca_boo

      “Still, when the emperor looks naked, it’s because he isn’t wearing any clothes.” I’ll have to remember that one. : ) Thanks!

  13. 13 picklemonster

    When I first read this post, the first thing that came to mind was Oedipus…. And if that mythical tale didn’t freak me out the first time I read it, then this movie trailer definitely did the trick. There are not enough “Eww”s in the world to describe my feelings.

    HOWEVER, I do feel like this film is gonna become some sort of a classic…just cuz you know, critics seem to like rule-breakers once in a while.

    • 13.1 Christy

      Me too! “Twisted mother-son pair” basically equates to Oedipus, because what else could be more twisted? Eww times a million. But by the looks of the intensity as well as the ick factor, sounds like this one might be one to top The Housemaid.

  14. 14 -K

    I was actually looking for this trailer about a week ago. Thanks for posting this.

  15. 15 Ivoire

    Thank you!

  16. 16 DarknessEyes

    omg… what is his name in the movie??? Cuz at 0:37, I definitely heard his name as Lee Kang-to. Idk, that’s probably just me….

    but *shivers*. This is probably going to be a great movie…. I just don’t know if I can watch this kinda stuff… yeah, probably passing on this one… Yeah, this definitely reminds me of Oepdipus, but that one wasn’t as bad because it wasn’t like he KNEW……. I hope that was a fakeout, but i doubt it was. Yeah, as Betty said, what is seen cannot be unseen…

    • 16.1 KDaddict

      Oedipus didn’t know. While the Oedipal Complex is just a complex.

  17. 17 Abbie

    I enjoyed 3 Iron which is the only Kim Ki-duk film I’ve seen. This, I probably won’t see because it sounds really creepy. If there is a sudden change, where they are not mother and son, then that’s fine. Otherwise, ew. Big ew. I’m steering clear of this movie.

  18. 18 jomo

    Oh, I shouldn’t have watched that, but boy is he pretty in that!

    She looks awesome, too.
    Love the aubergine dress.

  19. 19 iaia

    Sometimes directors go too far to make something different…It’s sick

  20. 20 alua

    It’s Kim Ki-duk allright – and I agree with you on your verdict of him and his films. I adore 3-Iron, but other films of his (The Isle) are on my never-ever-watch list. Arirang was okay, Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter… and Spring was alright as well (most people really love it) and Bimong I really want to see.

    Pieta? Probably I’ll end up watching it. I’ll wait for reviews I think though I can’t say I particularly like the premise.

    Well, if Kim Ki-duk never makes another film that I love love love like 3-Iron, I don’t mind… that film was all worth it.

    That said, I do think Korea and the world needs filmmakers like him, who tell stories they want to tell rather than bowing to commercial pressures, critics, etc.

    • 20.1 alua

      I wish the two actually looked like mother and son… but they look closer in age than that. Apparently (in real life) the actors are 13 years apart in age…

    • 20.2 DarknessEyes

      …. I looked up the wiki summary to the Isle after being curious cuz of your post….. BAD IDEA….. I think I’ll go watch You’re Beautiful or something… need something light….

      • 20.2.1 KDaddict

        There r so many ways for characters to die. Swallowing fish hooks and stuffing them into a vagina (in the Isle) seem like ways deliberately designed for the sole purpose of being shocking and provocative. As if that is not shocking enough, the guy tries to save her by reeling her in by the fish hooks attached to her vagina! If that is artistic, then I opt for a stupid KD instead.

        • alua

          Darn, I didn’t know that. (That was too much information!!!) I was just told that the fish hook on the film poster/DVD cover ‘was there for a reason’. Plus I had heard about the controversy of animal abuse in the film. Well, now with what you write, it’s been ever so more firmly etched onto that never-ever-watch list of mine…

        • jedi

          Did you watched it???? It’s so scary KDaddict!!! Just read your comment above, it’s already made me throw up!

      • 20.2.2 KDaddict

        There r so many ways for characters to die in film. Swallowing fish hooks and stuffing them into a vagina (in the Isle) seem like ways deliberately designed to be shocking and provocative. As if that is not shocking enough, the guy tries to save her by reeling her in by the fish hooks attached to her vagina! If that is artistic, then I opt for a stupid KD instead.

      • 20.2.3 KDaddict

        There are so many ways for characters to die in film. Swallowing fish hooks and stuffing them into a vagina (in the Isle) seem like ways deliberately designed to be shocking and provocative. As if that is not shocking enough, the guy tries to save her by reeling her in from the water by the fish hooks attached to her vagina! If that is artistic, then I opt for a stupid KD instead.

  21. 21 Sajen

    I love Kim Ki Duk, at least partly because I hate happy Hollywood movies. Also the sacrilegious poster makes me want to see it all the more .

  22. 22 vbs

    I’m a big fan of Kim Ki-duk and Lee Jung-jin is seen far to seldom for me so it’s a MUST watch for me and as the comment above me say i to hate Hollywood movies,happy or whatever

  23. 23 KDaddict

    Shocking for the sake of being shocking;
    Being repulsive in the name of art;
    Going too far to show that he dares;
    Being sacrilegious to stir up controversy;
    Those are established strategies for some film-makers to garner attention, cultivate favor w critics, and to make a name for themselves.

  24. 24 lenrasoon

    I’m not really creep out by the theme and i actually felt curious to watch this movie when it’s released, for sure will be interesting.

  25. 25 jenny

    really creeped outright now i too need to watch runaway plan b again because i really do love LJJ but thsi is freaking me out…

  26. 26 Steamy Bun

    “Some of his films are simply brilliant; the almost-wordless 3 Iron is my favorite. And then, sometimes I feel like he’s perverse for the sake of perverse—either deliberately provocative, or intentionally impenetrable under the banner of art. Ultimately I figure the world needs storytellers like Kim, but I don’t have to love all his stories.”

    JB, you hit the nail on the head and I completely agree — although my view on KKD is perhaps slightly more positive. But count me as someone who doesn’t mind creepy or disturbing themes (I just have to watch the movie alone!) I mean life can be creepy and disturbing, and even “normal” people have some pretty messed up stuff going on in their heads behind all the normalness, so why not explore those themes?

  27. 27 Indiannomad

    I havent watched all of Kim Ki-duk’s movies, except for 3 Iron and Spring, summer, fall, winter….and spring.. I liked both the movies…they left me a thought provoking “Oh so this is also possible” kind of feeling.

  28. 28 Suzi Q

    Thanks for the translation of the trailer. Parts of it was so dark from the low lighting, you couldn’t see anything. Now I know why. I’ve seen creepier, more blood thirsty horror movies, but this topic is repulsive.Ugh! LJJ looks ugly. too.

  29. 29 acire

    whoa-ho, there’s a doozy.

  30. 30 rjyuggy

    as for me, Incest and sacrilegious movies are awesome because these experiences are more real than romantic comedy movies. I will watch this.

    • 30.1 KDaddict

      There r many things that r real in the world: blood diamonds, gorilla killings, human trade of little girls, the greed n deregulation that brought down the U.S. economy….. Surely there must be something real that is worthy of making a film and a statement about.
      For the sake of decency, let’s hope this mother-son incest isn’t too real!

  31. 31 Cindy

    lol I was watching the trailer and my face was like

    -.- o.o 0.0 O.O @.@ “0_o” Dafuq is this…

    • 31.1 Cindy

      hm… I watched a movie where the sibling knew they were real brother and sister that loved each other more than siblings love if you know what I mean.

      Also read a mangá, Angel sanctuary and Incest is kind of a interesting topic. Well at least the manga made me buy their relationship.

      But mother and son? A big no for me. Is just…. no.
      It reminds me of another movie I saw…. that the father of the guy died and he and his stepmom had an affair… o0

      it was very very creepy.

    • 31.2 KDaddict

      Love your change of expressions in post #31.

      • 31.2.1 True2u

        LOL!! @ the expressions

  32. 32 MJP

    He’s copying what they are doing in the Japanese dramas/anime/manga these days. I have to say that this would probably be old hat in Tokyo. If this creeps you out, you should definitely stay away from a lot of their stuff.

    And can anyone remember back to 2009: Makenzie Phillips and her dad John Phillips??? Real life here people.

    It’s just too sad…

    • 32.1 KDaddict

      Fathers have been known to rape their daughters, esp. when drunk (drugged). But a son Raping his mother?
      Daughters have been coerced into having “consensual” sex with fathers, a figure of authority. But a mother having “consensual” sex with her son?
      There are some taboos that are universal. Sex between mother and son is the ultimate one.

      • 32.1.1 True2u

        But a son Raping his mother? Yes, it happens. I read once a son raped his mom, she said she woke up to him on top of her and he just kept going. after he was finish, she did call the police and reported him, she said the moment she realized it was her son she said, it was a if her son has died and now she can only see a monster.

    • 32.2 Magii

      “He’s copying what they are doing in the Japanese dramas/anime/manga these days”..I agree on that. I was really a manga addict but no more due to the ideas they include in the stories and how they try to make them seems ok to the reader. As an outsider, I wonder what the Japanese society looks like if such “ideas” are selling and profitable!!. In my opinion, nothing good comes from defying ethics, morals and nature and such “ideas” shouldn’t be promoted even in the name “artistic view”.

    • 32.3 Susan

      How is he copying them?

  33. 33 pandasaurus

    Everytime I find out it’s a KKD film, I’m torn between “oh hell no – I don’t wanna know” and “omg why do i neeeed to watch it?!”

  34. 34 nozomi05

    As of the moment, I am avoiding watching even the trailer.

  35. 35 aX

    Not my type of movie. Giving this a miss.

  36. 36 Serena B

    Can’t decide from the trailer if this is something I would want to see or not. It certainly looks like parts will be uncomfortable to watch. On the other hand, sometimes those uncomfortable scenes in movies are essential to the storytelling and later there’s a big payoff moment where you’re like, ‘Oh…*now* I get why I had to sit through that.’ (Then again, sometimes they’re just there for the shock factor, those are the kinds of scenes that I find really unnecessary and make me lose respect for the filmmaker.)

    Of the director’s works, I’ve only ever seen 3-Iron, which is a movie I absolutely love.

    Despite the extreme squick factor, I might be interested in seeing this movie. If nothing else, it looks provoking.

  37. 37 Jan

    Haha wow, nice to see Korea get on the incest boat after HBO started swimming in it (I actually liked that twist in Boardwalk Empire)

  38. 38 Susan

    I pretty much agree with everything you said about KKD and his films. I’ll probably be watching this, looks interesting.

  39. 39 Uj


  40. 40 hapacalgirl

    See, if I never read the post prior to the trailer I wouldn’t have thought anything “eww” because of the fact that I didn’t understand the language. Without the context it comes off as a psychological type of movies that push the boundaries. Within the context there is that additional “eeww” factor about the movie but only enough to make my jaw drop but not be so squeaked out that I wouldn’t watch it. It actually makes me interested in watching it because I am curious to how the dynamics of these characters reached these points in the trailer.

    But I should note I have never seen a KKD film so I have no preconceived notions of his style or substance.

  41. 41 Mystisith

    Maybe I’m jaded but I don’t even find that shocking: You hear & see so many unthinkable things in the news these days… It’s just ugly to look at and I will pass. Not my cup of tea.

  42. 42 parsifal

    i liked all kim ki duk movies i watched, ( i haven’t seen arirang and pulsang dog yet)Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring, Samaritan Girl, 3-Iron, The Bow, Time, Breath, Dream all of the was great, some are greater(3-iron)
    his movies are like puzzles that is challenging, sad and yet enjoyable to solve
    but lately i srarted to feel the his characters’ inability to communicate is a bit artificial, the worlds he creates are a bit forced, maybe i overdosed i don’t know
    the idea of incest is really hard to stomach but its not something that can stop a movie from being a good one
    (see Incendies (2010), it left me breathless and empty but at the same time I knew i watched someting that needs to be watched, heard someting that needs to be said)
    but i agree with JB’s comment on KKD, like he’s being perverse for the sake of perverse, i feel like the incest part won’t be an integral part of the story but something that can be left behind but added for the sake of shocking the audience
    i am probably check this out years later when i feel like catching up with kim ki duk

    • 42.1 soysauce

      I watched Incendies, and I was completely speechless at the end. It was that same feeling that I had after watching Oldboy. Don’t really know how to put it into words.

      • 42.1.1 indigowine

        Wow… exactly my thought, I think I can manage almost anything after I saw the OldBoy xD

        Yes, this one sounds intriguing.. especially with the metaphor of Mary Magdalene and Jesus (?) Gonna watch this for sure..

  43. 43 Loki

    Actually, this premise is quite tame compared to those of Greek literature. And I’m not even talking about the Oedipous trilogy. Take a look at Bacchae’s “Medea” in which a mother kills her children for revenge; or even Homer’s “Odyssey” where guises and deception are considered virtuous.

    What makes such gruesome and downright cruel stories much more than their exterior is that, if composed well, it provokes us to widen our ways of thinking, to question the accepted “answers.” Perhaps in “Medea,” the mother had to kill her children in order to bring them back to life, and in the “Odyssey,” perhaps Odysseus realized that one can only be honest by lying.

    Even if this movie is for the sake of the chill factor, I am convinced it will create passionate responses from the movie-goers and fuel countless heated conversations.

  44. 44 folie a deux

    Well as they say, “don’t judge a book by its cover”, I’m gonna give this piece a chance. I saw his other “tamer” works like 3-Iron, Time and Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…Spring and they did not fail to deliver visually and intellectually. However, I have yet to see his other controversial films, e.g. The Isle, The Bow, Bad Guy. From what I’ve read, his works are actually not well-received in his country and I understand the reason why. Albeit the violent and disturbing content, his works are actually compelling but as one commenter had mentioned, they are not for the faint of heart.

  45. 45 Carole McDonnell

    Okay, I’m gonna pull up the movie you just recommended. I know zip about this creator, although I did like 3-Iron a lot. So…why not discover him? That said, I still haven’t seen “Mother” because of a certain scene…so am probably not gonna see this. Thanks for the recap and for mentioning his other great films.

  46. 46 malta

    I’m not one to be deeply offended easily even if I don’t like what I see, but this is at the border… It’s a little bit confounding to me that someone would put together the themes of Oedipus complex with clear visual imagery of the Pieta directly conjuring up the Virgin Mary and Jesus…

    Worse than being offensive it’s just bad and seems like the latest-and-greatest desperate attempt to “push the envelope”…right off a cliff.

    The 800 pound gorilla that is not hiding at all, is that KKD is implying that we can look at the story and relationship of the virgin Mary and Jesus as artistic inspiration for an act of sexual depravity and the messed up story surrounding it. That. Is. All. Kinds. Of. Wrong. Not to mention the idea can’t stand up to critique even if we were to accept it as something worthwhile.

    There is nothing even remotely perverse about the Pieta, its subject matter, or the relationship of the Mary and Jesus…and to suggest so….ugh. Why?

    I say all this obviously not having watched the movie, which I won’t ever watch because, I don’t have the patience for this. But it’s still a valid critique. Shock for the sake of shock is not art. It’s the opposite of art and shows a lack of imagination and judgement.

    After writing all this, I think maybe I am offended. ugh.

  47. 47 nheony

    I don’t understand Korean but I still got sufficiently creeped out. This movie is beyond dark. *shivers*

  48. 48 fatoome

    If you’re in the mood for creepy movies, skip this one and watch the Japanese movie Confessions.

    I’m glad I didn’t watch the trailer before reading. *sigh*

    • 48.1 indigowine

      Confessions actually doesn’t have any related-theme or whatsoever with this movie. So I don’t think it’s apple to apple comparison. It might be better recommending people to watch OldBoy instead. But hey, it’s just me.

      Besides, having watched Confessions myself, I don’t think it’s as creepy as it should be. Yes, I was in deep comprehending moment after I watched it but… you know, I figured since it was a Japanese movie anyway.. so it’s kinda ‘normal’ in a way, if you know what I mean 😉

  49. 49 foolmoon

    Accept the challenge and watch the trailer ….
    Euww, creepy! *shudder*
    Why the connection with religious symbol for something that is ‘perverse just for the sake of perverse’, imo ? Cause I see the incest act is done consciously, not unknowingly .
    Well, I’ll pass. Next movie, please…

  50. 50 Piopo

    The 1st pic is not blastphamoust it is a tablou of Michelangelo’s marble sculpture called Pieta. It is actually very witty. I reconized it right away. Take a look and you will see the similarites. This sculpture also was not well recieved at the time because of the sexual induendoes. So I’m as an art history nerd I like what he’s done here!

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