84

Movie Review: Pieta

Continuing director Kim Ki-duk’s legacy of grisly subject matter and general unpleasantness, Pieta made a curious splash at foreign film festivals as well as abroad, earning the Golden Lion award at the 69th Venice International Film Festival as well a few best actress awards for its leading lady, Jo Min-soo, and plenty for its PD, the man behind such films as The Isle and the more palatable 3 Iron, and one who gives himself a passing mention in the opening credits with: Kim Ki-duk presents a Kim Ki-duk production, executively produced by Kim Ki-duk, written and directed by Kim Ki-duk, in the 18th film by Kim Ki-duk. (Addendum: Kim Ki-duk is a special snowflake.)

With its Oedipal theme and scenes of sexual violence, regular violence, cannibalism, animal cruelty, incest, torture, maiming, and suicide, Pieta lacks anything close to what we’d consider an enjoyable experience at the movies—so it seems counterintuitive to say that this is probably the most commercial film Kim Ki-duk has made in years. Whether that’s to Pieta’s benefit or not is up for grabs.

And that’s not to say there isn’t anything to see here, but this isn’t one of those cases where I’d caution viewers to hold their breath and wade through the stomach-churning moments because the message is worth it in the end, or because the violence serves a higher purpose. Pieta is not that movie. It does try for a message, and uses a unique voice to try and convey it, but the underlying idea doesn’t seem to be the driving force so much as an afterthought and last-ditch attempt to add a sense of real-world meaning to characters who have none. Probably because mommy didn’t love them enough.

Note: There will be some spoilers, but I won’t give away the ending.

The premise of Pieta revolves around a dysfunctional mother and son relationship after they meet again for the first time since his birth, though all is not what it seems. Our lead has taken to life as a debt collector for a high-interest loan company, though one could describe him as more of a butcher, since he maims debtors with their own machines in order to collect on the insurance claim without care or compassion.

Mom comes into his life late into the game, and through a series of bizarre and terrible tests, proves herself in our lonely protagonist’s eyes. There’s plenty more to that, which we’ll get into, but let me preface by saying: This film is messed up. And, strangely enough, the mother/son incest is the least of this movie’s problems.

It takes almost an hour of straight brutality before we even begin to scratch at the story’s emotional center, and the middle stretch proved to be the most engaging as I found myself remotely connecting with (and maybe even feeling a little sorry for) our appendage-hating butcher. It’s in the second half that the film takes a commercial leap, and—dare I say it, lest Kim Ki-duk come back with his most horrendous film to date—where it more or less chickens out on its intriguing premise. So instead of a movie dealing with the emotional ramifications resulting from a relationship where a grown mother and son live together for the first time with barely a semblance of social construct or morality, we end up with something that won’t seem too unfamiliar to those who’ve seen a revenge film or twenty.

We’re introduced to the aforementioned debt collector, LEE KANG-DO (Lee Jung-jin) in a rather unique way, but one that helps to emphasize his loneliness: He moans and groans against a pillow in his sleep, completely unaware of his actions until he finds evidence in the morning. And then he’s off to cripple a man behind on his debts, because maiming is Kang-do’s job.

Kang-do doesn’t look at his victims with the least bit of sympathy at first, since he blames them for their own bad choices. One man in particular leaves his wife alone with Kang-do to net them more time using sexual favors, but Kang-do doesn’t take the bait and sneers at the woman (after whipping her with her own bra), “Irresponsibly borrowing and not paying up… People like you are shit.”

It’s his journey that remains the most engaging throughout the film, even when he commits unspeakable atrocities. Basically, what we’re to understand from Kang-do’s actions is that he lashes out because he never knew his mother’s love, and once he does come to know a mother, he begins to realize his wrongs. The nice thing about the way he’s played is that you get that sense all along—that he knows just what he’s doing—but that he’s become an expert at compartmentalizing. I found myself wondering whether he feels remorse, even as he measures the distance it’d take to drop a man just enough to break his leg. And when the leg doesn’t break to his liking, Kang-do goes at the man’s kneecap with a rock because he’s a winner, darn it.

JANG MI-SUN (Jo Min-soo) enters his life suddenly, claiming to be his long-lost mother. In a bizarre sequence, she pushes into his apartment to wash his dishes, clean up the animal guts in his bathroom, and so on, in order to make up for her absence all these years. When Kang-do doesn’t believe her she drops to her knees in supplication: “I’m sorry I abandoned you.”

She takes his verbal and physical abuse without protest, and Jo Min-soo puts in a commanding performance. Her Mi-sun is a woman deadened by grief and constantly teetering on the edge of despair, at times still as a statue, and at others hurrying through everyday motions with such purpose that you wonder whether she’d devolve into hysteria if she stopped for too long. As time goes by we begin to understand why she reacts the way she does, but in the beginning, she’s only Kang-do’s regretful mother.

If you’ve seen any of the trailers for this film, then you’re aware of the scene where Kang-do, in disbelief that Mi-sun is his mother, tests her by shoving his hand between her thighs. “You say I came out of here? Then can I go back in?” he asks, because it makes total sense that trying and succeeding to rape the woman claiming to be your mother is the best way to find out for sure.

What’s almost just as horrifying (which I bring up only because misery loves company) is how that test is coupled with the one that comes before it: Kang-do offers Mi-sun a piece of raw meat, claiming that if she’s his real mother, she’ll eat it.

She does, and only as she chews does she and the unfortunate audience see that Kang-do has cut off a piece of his own thigh to feed her, and the brilliant part of Mi-sun’s portrayal is that you watch her reactions play out in rapid succession—from her horrified realization, to her revulsion, and eventually her acceptance and desire to prove herself as she swallows. The sexual aggression comes after she fails to convince him through her act of loving cannibalism, and it’s only when Kang-do is on top of her and the deed is done that he seems to realize just how unforgivable of a person he is. Better late than never(?).

There are other cast members, but all of them play ancillary roles to our main duo, and most of them are Kang-do’s victims with no purpose other than to be victims. (Admittedly, I found it morbidly funny to look at the cast list and find so many individuals identified not by their character names, but by descriptors like: “mother of the man who committed suicide using drugs,” or “man who committed suicide by falling,” or “man who committed suicide by hanging.” And so on.)

It does remind you that we’re in a Kim Ki-duk film, though I do think that PD Kim might have been trying to make a point about South Korea’s ruthless capitalist system and the toll it takes on working men, even though the film seems to postulate that the debtors got what was coming to ’em. That being said, the furthest Pieta gets toward making that point is having a character mention it, so I’m honestly not sure if it counts.

Interestingly enough, though Pieta is an incredibly violent film in nature, it’s not a gore fest. (I’d even venture to say that I Saw The Devil makes for better torture porn, if that’s your thing.) So while we know very well that one man is having holes bored through his hand, or another man’s arm is being squeezed like a bottle of toothpaste, we never see the actual acts and will cut away before we’ve seen too much.

That serves as a small reprieve in a movie where so much is centered around what atrocities Kang-do commits against X amount of debtors, even though it starts to get a little tiring to follow him through more than four assignments—especially when the second half consists of him revisiting most of the men he’s maimed. Yes, we’re supposedly watching him change and evolve his method of thinking (in the broadest way imaginable), and he does that through visiting his debtors and sometimes crippling them or watching them commit suicide. The sequences do have a point, but the welcome mat gets thrown out about twenty minutes in. And that’s being generous.

The big change in Kang-do’s approach (after his eye-opening sexual assault) comes when he encounters a young debtor and soon-to-be father, one who’s at peace with becoming crippled because the insurance claim will help him provide for his child. Kang-do shows mercy for the first time because he envies the man’s devotion to his child, a devotion which Kang-do wishes he’d been shown by his parents—and while you get these broad strokes in regard to his character they do tend to remain that way, sometimes infuriatingly so.

Basically, his entire character trajectory can be boiled down to: (1) Kang-do is violent because he had no mother, (2) Kang-do gets a mother and becomes less violent, and reverts to being twelve years old.

We see Kang-do change his outlook on life fairly rapidly, carried by Lee Jung-jin’s very believable performance as a tortured boy-at-heart who only ever wanted his mommy. It doesn’t excuse his actions, and the film doesn’t attempt to make that argument at all—but it does elicit some sympathy, because you see Kang-do fall deeper and deeper into his devotion for his mother once he comes to believe her.

In that sense, Kang-do provides a very warped perspective into the usual heroic manchild, because he gives in so wholeheartedly to being a child again and experiencing all that he missed. It paints a macabre picture when Mi-sun takes him out for a day of fun, because she’s not only holding hands with her unusually tall adult son who’s had questionable sex with her, but one she also helped to masturbate while he had one of his pillow-humping wet dreams. It’s one of the sexual scenes that actually makes a little sense compared to the others, because you see Mi-sun struggling with uncertainty, understanding, pity, and regret all in the scope of one scene and one very disturbing deed.

But in the process of learning to love his mother, Kang-do learns how to smile, laugh, and have fun for the first time in his miserable life. It’s hard not to feel sorry for him, especially when he becomes so defenseless because of her—all his toughness, all his resilience, seems to disappear overnight. He even admits that he wouldn’t be able to go on living if anything were to happen to her, and the sad thing about it is that you can completely believe him in that moment, even though as a character he’s just jumped from one extreme to the other by allowing Mi-sun through his defenses.

It’s then that the film derails from what it could have been had it tried: While neither the story or characters are flawlessly gripping, what Pieta had in its favor was the exploration of Mi-sun and Kang-do’s irrevocably twisted and sick relationship as mother and son, whether that entailed sexual violence, a day in the city with balloon animals, or taking turns busting out someone’s kneecap. To have continued to explore their relationship would take storytelling cojones, because all the narrative dots thrown out would have to actually be connected with subtlety instead of one big crayon line haphazardly going from dot to dot.

Instead, the film transitions into something resembling every Korean revenge film you’ve seen, and though there’s an emotional twist that’s somewhat unique, Pieta treats its later emotional revelations like it treats its violence—by cutting away. We get a few impressive scenes with Mi-sun crying hysterically, but to actually explore the fallout inherent in the second act betrayal would have done better to set this film apart.

Even then, had the second act not cancelled out the first and made those emotional connections necessary only for a manufactured ending, there would have been something to salvage. But Pieta takes the most intriguing thing it had going—Mi-sun and Kang-do’s relationship—and exchanges it for the usual, nonsensical, and predictable. The changed dynamic in the relationship informs how the move ends, sure, but that fails to matter when the emotional connection we established with the duo was tangential at most, and dependent upon their teased-at familial ties. In layman’s terms: You had ONE job!

So what we’re left with ends up being more of an exercise in tolerance, and admittedly, it’s a thankless job. Something tells me that Pieta tried to either be two films, or that the mind behind it was overly ambitious without somehow being ambitious enough. Absent of an emotional punchline (though it tries, it just doesn’t hit), Pieta seems to be making the groundbreaking argument that money is the source of all woes—but it doesn’t achieve that point with any semblance of mastery, since it doesn’t take a genius to realize that when people borrow money above their means, bad things happen. And wouldn’t you know, good people can do bad things, and bad people can do bad things, and sometimes good people want roundabout revenge if bad people have done bad things to them. These are things to ponder.

The Bottom Line: Pieta boasts two good performances on a measly production budget, and works with what it’s got. Deliberately perverse and emotionally simplistic, it makes a concerted effort to drive away the squeamish without offering a worthwhile story or engaging characters as compensation. An unpleasant could-have-been that just couldn’t do much of anything. 6/10.

 
RELATED POSTS

Tags: , , ,

84

Required fields are marked *

i know the site's namesake is DRAMAbeans, but i'm totally digging the recent spike in k-movie reviews... wolfboy, jiseul & now, pieta. as a huge movie fan, thanks! :)

0
11
reply

Required fields are marked *

I agree with you :)

0
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

It is nice because a lot of drama watchers don't necessarily watch movies too. I think it's mainly due to the lack/relative slowness of subs. Regardless, I think spotlighting movies are a great thing. I've enjoyed a lot of different films over the years and it's a shame others don't get to enjoy them also.

As for Pieta though, it was definitely one of the more disturbing movies I've seen. I appreciate Kim Ki-duk and love Lee Jung-jin so that was my motivation. In the end, I did feel a bit disappointed but that could very well be just my interpretation.

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Yes, the movie reviews are great! Thank you HeadsNo2 <3.

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Movies is where we find Korea's most talented actors, directors, producers etc . Love movie reviews.

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Thank you HeadsNo2 for the review!
I had been curious about this movie, as I had seen it being "advertised" on KBS World, with a short interview of the director.

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Totally agree with you on this. I really enjoy HeadsNo2's writing style and look forward to reading these reviews.

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Echoing daria words..... a welcome addition of movie reviews in dramabeans, and thanks HeadsNo2 for the wonderful review.

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

6/10....hmm..

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

This review is a bit too superficial for my taste. From the perspective that humans are fundamentally selfish, cruel and brutal -- be it explicit, implicit or complicit; to themselves or others -- the movie makes sense and is consistent. Any redeeming quality in human beings are but accidental or self-serving.

The cruelest thing for her was to leave the guy _STILL_ thinking she was his mother, and left him with real loss and lifelong regrets and guilt. The most brutal thing for him to do was to convince himself through delusions, and despite misgivings, that this was indeed his mom. He was the most pathetic and pitiful victim.

I have always thought Kim Ki-Duk message to have been consistent, "We are all trapped in this life until we die. We make do, but what stupid, silly and cruel games we play! It may serve us all better if we each pay attention and act a bit less cruel sometimes."

0
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

I completely agree with you... I saw this movie in a Fantasporto movie festival and i always thought it to be a good movie with is own message to tell...

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I enjoy watching a good K movie. It sure beats watching a 50 episode drama like God Of War and feeling you wasted hours due to a terrible ending/bad writing.

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

wanna watch this drama, i like 3 iron, the best korean movie i ever watch

0
2
reply

Required fields are marked *

3-iron is totally great, i agree.

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

And it has Jae Hee in it too~! XD *squee*

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I think I want to watch this film just to see the opening credits (the passing mention of the PD - lol) and the ending.

Thank you for the review!

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I thought this movie was ass. It was vulgar for the sake of being vulgar; nothing more, nothing less. I watched the first hour before I gave up. The movie just moved from one pointless scene to the next, forgetting the fact that movies are supposed to have a plot. If you wanna see a movie where a guy fucks his pillow, beats people up until they become disabled, and watch the main character's mom jack him off, then this movie for you. Otherwise, if you want a movie with plot and character progression, look elsewhere.

0
9
reply

Required fields are marked *

Maybe if you finish it then you'll see the point.

0
8
reply

Required fields are marked *

If it was such a piece of shit in the first hour, what's my incentive to finish it? I just cut my losses and did something more productive with my time.

0
7
reply

Required fields are marked *

Don't criticize movies you didn't finish. Just don't.

0
6
reply

Required fields are marked *

I disagree. If there's absolutely nothing compelling enough (acting, writing, directing, whatever) to make the viewer watch until the end, obviously the viewer doesn't like it and has the right to say the film is total crap.

0

I beg to differ. A movie is not only about its ending or message. A movie is a form of entertainment and art. Any fictional work operates based on some rules, made to keep the audience involved. If it does not give you enough to keep you watching, it's the makers failure to engage and create a good narrative.

0

If you watched one hour you should also watch those last 44 minutes. If you can't even do that a discussion is pointless since you don't even have the patience and the maturity to watch a freaking movie.

No one is required to watch a movie to the end, but bitching about it without seeing the whole thing is a waste of your time since you didn't even bother finishing it.

Why even bother?

0

I think making assumptions on a person's maturity and patience based on how they like to spend their time with their hobbies, which is their own business, as is their opinion, is extremely unfair on your part.

You watch movies one way, others expect and demand different things from them. That does not make anyone "better" and it certainly does not entitle them to speak in that manner to a complete stranger, just because they disagree or don't like something the other person does.

That's my two cents.

0

It is valid to criticize a movie you don't finish, especially when the criticism is that it was too bad and pointless to finish it.

Imagine people in the audience getting up and walking out of a live play in the middle of the third act...it's a way to show your dislike and disapproval.

0

Nobody drops a film or a drama without valid reasons. Either you made a mistake in choosing it, or really, it's just a bad production. Whatever the case,why people should stay and torture themselves if they don't like what they see?

0

pretentious piece of crap. there. i said it. it's done. it's always crude, disturbing films like this that get all the praise. sad. disgusting.

0
14
reply

Required fields are marked *

so true!

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

It's sad that non-Hollywood entertainment only gets attention if it's big-budget (even if it's crap like 'Haeundae') or then if it's art house sexually explicit, violent and disturbing stuff.

I wouldn't blame people not familiar with it if they think Asian cinema is glorified art house revenge porn. That kind of crap is all that makes it to festivals, award shows and gets any kind of spotlight. Well, as I said, that and awful commercial films like 'Haeundae'.

0
8
reply

Required fields are marked *

So true about art house films and flaky sexuality. There does seem to be an abundance of that. But it's not only Asian films. Alas, I've noticed this in films from Europe That said, if the film is really attempting to be bold and honest, truly honest instead of weirdly, sickly titillating then I might be able to sit through it. Trouble is, so many of these films are just pretentious and (in the end) somewhat shallow. And often they are subtly preachy and downright sneaky in the way they introduce their main point. So, they're hard to sit through.

0
4
reply

Required fields are marked *

Oh yes, Europe is the master of art house weirdness, but I just mentioned Asian cinema since we're talking about a Korean movie and on an appropriate for it blog.

I think one can touch many tough subjects, even ones like incest, cannibalism etc, without making things graphic and repulsive. That is pretentious and it's just done to shock. Because a lot of modern art lovers think raw sex + violence = poignancy. Well, if I smoke enough of the stuff they're smoking, I bet even my computer mouse will seem to have a deeper meaning...

I'll take an artistic (hell, even art house) or even slightly graphic film if it's done well and aims to give audiences something useful, a life lesson of sorts or something. Films where the grand moral is "Everything sucks" and which simply try to stuff as many controversial and sickening issues (which are not even really big issues in society) in as possible simply don't speak to me.

0
3
reply

Required fields are marked *

first of all, i dont really make a difference between art/entertainment or whatever oriented films, theres just good ones and bad ones.
but i do disagree about europe being a master of arthouse films. i watch alot of stuff, and i truly have not been able to find anything european that was anything other than wannabe-[insert theme]. i do get that just-try-to-be-provocative-and-seem-meaningful vibe you are talking about it alot from those things.
i am not sure if its just me, but i think one aspect that stands out in korean cinama is how violence is handled. it always seems to take a very neutral standpoint and just include it in the film, opposed to using it to make a point.

i agree this film has some issues, but it does deserve its awards. not to mention award/festival choices are often political, based on social contacts etc. threre are alot of films that were criminally overlooked, but i dont think there was another film this year that would be a better choice.
also: "I like/dislike this film" != "this film is good/bad". there needs to be made more of a difference there.

0

@kyleD

I called Europe a master of art house weirdness. As in, exactly the type of pretentious art house you're talking about. ;)

0

@orion
sure we agree on this, i just wanted to draw a line between asian arthouse (mostly good and making sense) and european ones (mostly just plain bad), instead of putting both in the same "provocative and thinks its good just not widely understood" bag.

0

Not every movie is made for everyone. You can't expect people to conform to your likes and dislikes. So arthouse is not for you, that is totally fine, but you can you really say that everything from the genre is crap?

Is Oldboy crap? Is Pieta crap? If you can't see any sort of merit or understand why people like those films then you are sad. You don't have to like them, but calling them crap?

Most people that are into Asian cinema are seriously into movies and are not your average casual watcher. You have to put some effort with subtitles and downloading most of the time into it to even start watching Asian movies. I'm not wasting my time watching your average Korean movie, I might as well watch an American one at my local cinema. Why is that so hard to understand?

Please be more tolerant of others peoples preferences.

0
2
reply

Required fields are marked *

I think there is a difference between reviewing a movie and criticizing it as crap "in your opinion." Also, there's a difference between thinking a movie is crap and being intolerant of other people's preferences.

One can think a film is pretentious crap even if other folks think it's a great piece of art...yet at the same time one is not being intolerant or judging the lover of that work of art. So far, I don't think anything's been said about the actual lovers of certain kinds of movies. Just the movie itself.

I definitely think one should not review a movie or a book one has not finished. But one can say "for me, it was pretentious." One can say "in my opinion" I think this movie is pretentious. That's what blogs are for. That's what human communication is about. That's not really saying the filmmaker or those who love the film is pretentious. And disliking a particularly pretentious art house movie doesn't mean one is disliking all art house movies. The point is that one dislikes pretension, not the movie itself.

I will also add that none of us here made this movie. I understand that we all love certain movies or types of movies and hate to hear them dissed but the movie is not a part of us; it is art made by someone else. So when we hear a movie (or a type of movie) dissed we have to step back a bit and not get too personally offended about it as if we ourselves had written/directed/executive produced/filmed it. No one here is Kim Ki-duk...or even his homeboy.....i think.

0
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

This. I also think it's silly saying "in my opinion" and "I feel that" all the time. A person is one entity. I am me and anything I say can only be my own opinion, without me having to state it all the time. If someone chooses to think I am somehow pushing that personal opinion based on personal preference as the God-given truth, that's their issue.

We all have different likes and dislikes, different values and expect different things from movies. I don't think it's bad saying something is awful. It's certainly not worse than saying something is wonderful. They are just opinions. I get it that some feel their taste is being offended, but that's life. Some will find your taste awful, you will find the taste of others awful. That does not mean you are in any way judging the person.

A relative of mine is a 'Twilight' fan and I find her taste ridiculous, but that does not mean I consider her an idiot or dislike her. I love her. I think people tend to get a bit too defensive, sometimes even rude, when their personal likes are not shared by others, but that just shows inability to accept others' opinions and lack of confidence in one's own preferences. There's no need to feel threatened.

To come back to 'Pieta', it's certainly not made with wider audiences in mind, so I don't see why it is surprising a lot of people will find it too off-putting to even go near it or simply find it too difficult and not worthy to watch. The more boundaries a movie pushes, the more criticism there will be. It's a given.

0

i kinda agree on this one..for example So called film "Slum Dog Millionaire " such a hideous film ..got all the praise in the world..just because it showed slumps in India.. usually all the weird Asians films are always praised ..

0
3
reply

Required fields are marked *

first of all, Slum Dog was not an "asian" film. It was filmed in english by an english director - just had "asian" actors in it (if we're being politically correct, south asian). Just clarifying your assumption.

South asian films have their fair share of art films - and no not your typical bollywood movies with singing and dancing, we make ones that are quite similar though east asia and europe does it best.

0
2
reply

Required fields are marked *

I very well know that it is directed by Danny Boyle ..i was responding to the Asian related comment above that all the moves that are extremely violent or have explicit sexual content or any where they show the weakness of Asia are acclaimed ..
I absolutely don't want to get into the comment about Bollywood films as I love them , and as a matter of fact they are more popular then any other form of Asian be it East or south Asian cinema .

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

"Salaam Bombay" is a better film than Slumdog. You can watch it to get a sense of what being a slumdog is all about, albeit through a rose colored lens because it is still nowhere close to the real thing for the destitute street children of any country.

All the comments here are demonstrate disgust at pain and suffering inflicted by adults on adults. Think about when the same and worse are done to children (even infants) in the sex and slave labor (yes, still exists where parents sell children into bondage to work in factories where our western brand clothes, toys, shoes are made) industries. Humans are capable of so much evil........

BTW, the Korean film 'silenced'/'the crucible' was based on a real event of adults abusing disabled children. It elicited tremendous outrage by Koreans who demanded justics for this children after watching the movie.

Films like Ki Duk's make us think about things we otherwise wouldn't never dream of thinking about. By continuing to wear branded clothes, buying electronic accessories that are made with the blood and sweat of women and children, are we not all part of the system that preys on the weak?

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Already watch it and is indeed a 'mess'... yet so intriguing that you'll watch it till the end. And when you do you'll say "ah that's why". I feel disgusts on the first half, and on the other half, realizations & pondering about what the film wanted to tell its viewers.
I'll recommend it but with lot of caution for both physical & emotional violence.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I wanted to watch this film when it was shown here in HK only because it's Kim Ki Duk's film but unfortunately wasn't able to.Thank you Heads and Dramabeans for the review At least i get to have a glimpse of what the film is all about.

This is not a typical film,nor everyone's cup of tea,it's Kim Ki Duk's after all.It takes a brilliant mind to understand what message the film is trying to convey with it's violent,dark,sad,and at times almost funny-but-it's-not-because-it's-weird character/s.But that is what makes it an art because not everybody can understand it.I've seen Kim Ki Duk on some interviews and he's not the ordinary director,producer,etc. that you find in the business.That's what made me interested in his works regardless of the fact that i may or may not understand it.

0
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

I beg to differ - One does not need to have a brilliant mind to understand Kim Ki Duk films. To me he is OVERRATED. His name is a brand and sadly, there's nothing exceptionally new in any of his movies anymore.. they're becoming too predictable and "crappy" :P It's always about lonely lonely lonely introvert with sexual problems, relationship problems... who does not know how to express themselves articulately/verbally... (yawn!)

Having said that - it does not mean I disliked his movies. I preferred his earlier works - Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring; 3-Iron and Bad Guy...

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I have admired Kim Ki Duk's and my most favorite was the "Summer, winter, fall, spring.... and summer". Many of his movies have good character development even if the story is too simple.

"Peita" still gives me the creeps. Like KKD's signature works some scenes keep playing in your mind. However, this movie lacked depth. Pieta is a sad "wannabes" of KKD.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

"It’s in the second half that the film takes a commercial leap, and—dare I say it, lest Kim Ki-duk come back with his most horrendous film to date—where it more or less chickens out on its intriguing premise"

Darn it! I hate when a creator loses moral courage or the courage of his convictions, however twisted those convictions. I'm not sure if he accidentally lost his way, didn't think it through, wasn't patient enough to figure out the true ending, wanted to please the audience with what they would recognize, or consciously chickened out. But reading your review, I'm kinda sorry he didn't search out and find the film's true ending.

Thanks for bringing this film to our attention. I might try to see it.

0
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

Sad to say he lost his juice....

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I hate the poster for this film. It is so gratuitous it makes me roll my eyes till they're practically at the back of my head. It's just shrieking, "Are you shocked at the reference!" I don't get offended easily by things that pervert religious references, but something about that poster just really irks me. Offended is not even the right word. That poster is... just so unnecessary... without reason, which seems to be an issue for much of what happened in this movie, that it was without reason. Why, why, why is this happening? What is the point of this? (Is the point even that there is no point- something I don't mind - nihilism...an existentialist viewpoint, whatever, but something and *somereason*). I hate when the reason is simply to shock the audience and show that the film actually went there. I absolutely detest art that is there solely to shock, or make people uncomfortable or disgusted...and(!) at the same time have absolutely no other purpose than that.

Hence my hatred of that poster and my general apprehension to this film ever since I saw the trailer.

I also don't buy the cop out that not everybody can understand art or high art. Please. That's just a euphemistic way of saying that the audience is too stupid to understand what the film is saying. Sometimes the film or piece of art does not succeed at saying what it meant to say, or at saying something coherent. Sometimes it's the film that's full of it.

0
7
reply

Required fields are marked *

But the creators of high art are a higher form of humans, full of depth and raging inspiration! Can you not see the point of that red splash of paint on an empty canvas? Can you not see how it is a representation of man's never ending struggle with his own duality, his nature torn between man and beast? :P

In other words, I agree. Ahaha. I don't have personal experience with the movie and don't plan to have it, but many works I've seen (not by Kim, in general|) are basically just functioning as second-hand mental masturbation for a maker who somehow feels only higher beings (art appreciators) will understand his/her wonderful soul.

It saddens me that such works seem to be getting a lot of international attention, when it comes to Korea. I don't mind them getting attention, but I'd hate it if Korea spent more effort and money to market such works while ignoring mainstream films for wider audiences that would do really well abroad, if given the chance. Art house and mainstream are very different and I hope to see equal chances given to both.

0
3
reply

Required fields are marked *

oh my gosh! I was going to say "mental masturbation" as well. I just didn't know if wordpress would let me get away with that. I'm not a fan of masturbatory art because I always feel as if I'm stuck watching some guy's fantasy of women, his particular type of women, etc. And I so hate being trapped. I've walked out of many movies or simply clicked them off because of that.

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

LOL @ "second-hand mental masturbation for a maker who somehow feels only higher beings (art appreciators) will understand his/her wonderful soul."

Wholeheartedly agree with this statement!

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

so, uhm, i really like that poster. i thought it captures the overall feel of the work very well, and its excellent on the technical side, poses, color composition, lighting and so on.
maybe i have a different point of view on this whole thing because shocking me is entirely impossible. so i watch that kind of thing the same way id watch a romcom too, eating a piece of cake and drinking coffee, and dont get hung up on specific parts.
still i agree such things are a form of mental... that thingy, thats just why people do art, even if not necessarily second hand. i dont believe the maker really cares if anyone likes it.

i do see why there is more focus on this than more mainstreamish films. a korean mainstream production will never be mainstream for an, say, american mainstream audience, if only for the subtitles, sometimes also because of the themes. this on the other hand is something that easily gets attention from critics and festivals. they should definitly put some more effort in international sales, regardless.

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

LOL! Loved your last line. But so true -- a film really should try to fulfill what it's trying to do.

And about the poster: I don't even think it was meant to shock. It's worse. It's just a not-too-subtle way of forcing us to see the theme of poverty and sacrifice and twisted holiness. Ah, twisted holiness...where bad guys are really good guys! A bit tiring and annoying if the film itself doesn't prove its theme.

I'll try to see this film though. I'll probably be annoyed if I feel I'm being dragged through yet another pretentious mire about holy bad childlike people but I'll wade through..gritting my teeth.

0
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

You're braver than me for seeing the film. I'm not going to go there. I know I would have a permanent horrified look on my face the whole time.

I am over the whole 'bad guys are actually good guys' thing. Also the whole 'mommy can fix everything' thing, and the whole 'no parents = no and/or twisted morality'...and also the 'magic ability for grown adults to revert back to a child-like state as some form of therapy for trauma' thing (just finished That Winter the Wind Blows, haha).

There are a lot of things I am over these day. :)

As for the poster...the real Pieta is one of my favorite works by Michelangelo. I've seen it in real life and it is incredible and so iconic (in the religious meaning of icon). The poster is just so crude and tawdry in light of it the original... it's like a perverted and bastardized photographic version of the real thing.

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I love your comment. From looking at promotional posters and trailers I can't always get a good sense of whether or not I'm going to be interested in a film. I think this one gave me a very good basis on which to evaluate. I'm grateful for the review since I'd been hearing about the awards and all, but now I know I can comfortably pass.

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

K-movies > K-dramas, thank you so much Heads <3.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

if you keep posting movie reviews like this... I might get pulled to watch kmovies too!!
keep rocking!!

0
7
reply

Required fields are marked *

Why are you not watching kmovies? Start watching! :P Really now, they have wonderful cinema. ;)

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Definitely watch kmovies! I highly recommend A Werewolf Boy. :)

0
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

OK! ill sure watch werewolf boy...
I've heard a lot about this movie and I know the stars song joong ki and park bo young too!!

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

if you like watching any kind of movies, definitly do, korean directors often offer a very unique perspective.
its not a good idea for me to recommend stuff, as much of it would be kinda similar to this... but maybe you should give 'castaway on the moon' a try, that one is very nonviolent, simple and still very profound and artsy.

0
2
reply

Required fields are marked *

I second that. 'Castaway on the Moon' is exactly the kind of artsy I like. Adorably kooky, but with a lot of feeling and it has wonderful things to say as well. It's an ultimate feel-good movie with two very excellent performances.

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

wow ! when I googled this movie, I found that jeon ryeu won from King Of Dramas is in this movie! that's fantastic xD .. now watching it will be a must!
I liked her very much in king of dramas

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Yes please do! Alot of great stuff!

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Loved 3 Iron.. KMovies are a thrill to watch, open mindedness helps, be it drama or comedy... Most of the movies I've seen are quite entertaining.. Thanks for including movies in your recaps... I'm not brave enough to watch Pieta yet....

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Urgh, even reading this makes me feel sick. How does someone even come up with this stuff?!?!?! Nuuuu.
I reallly want to know what the ending is, though. Can someone tell me? Is she just a relative of one of his victims' and wants to get revenge or something?

0
4
reply

Required fields are marked *

*SPOILER*
Bingo!
you guessed based on the review?You should write your own movie ;)

0
2
reply

Required fields are marked *

puahah! thanks for the reveal. good old fashioned revenge. now that makes me laugh. so what?... if she really had been his mother, this would've been a striking work of art? no.

0
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

I'm so glad I came here looking for the ending! I had similar suspicions but it's nice to have confirmation. No need to watch it now!

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

what a relief that she wasn't his mother!

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I'm not criticizing this movie...
but I think my sensitive heart can never withstand this type of insane sexual violence!
please , mom and son ..doing that deed !! I won't even dream it in my worst nightmare ..
Jesus please give me strength to recover!!

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Great review. Very well written and engaging. Reading this review reminds me of movie Ajashi or Man from Nowhere with Won Bin. The violence and villains were so over-the-top, I forgot why the movie was so good.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I kind of enjoy Kim Ki Duk (he's always interesting). Some more than others. Like, they will start out one way and then go in a completely different way towards the end (like The Bow that has an end I'm not too fond of o.O). They can be very violent or sexual (or both) so it's a preference if you want to watch his films especially since the characters rarely talk or never talk. I haven't watched Pieta but maybe one day. It sounds kind of like it goes the same trajectory as Dream (another Kim Ki duk film) plot-wise.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Doesn't matter if the movie is good or not. I know I can't watch this. I cannot stomach the violence. I'd be watching through my fingers the whole movie through just to break up the visuals somewhat. I wish I had the guts to watch just to see how I feel about it myself but no, can't do it.

Thanks though for the review. I wonder if anyone else has ever watched an old Korean movie called Christmas in August ? It was my first Korean movie long before I was into k dramas but remained in my consciousness for a long time.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Thank you, Heads ! A wonderful review and recap.

I think I'll pass this one. My faint heart wouldn't be able to withstand it.

However, I was intrigued by this movie and wondered if I should watch it. But thanks to the review, now I don't have to. My curiosity is satisfied.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I Like Pieta. It is my favorite among Kim Ki-duk's movies. Because I was watching with knowing it is Kim Ki-duk's, I prepared my heart for the violence and rough sex scenes. But the message at the end of the movie touched my heart the most. How Kang-do still loves Mi-sun as his mother regardless he knows she has lied to him or Mi-sun can't help but to love him despite what he has done to her real child, makes me go awww >.<

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

A kid who went to the Seattle International Film Festival watched this there and reviewed it in my school newspaper. It was interesting to see what a Caucasian student thought of it and he ended up giving it a very good review. He really enjoyed it.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

The review, though well intentioned, is but the perspective of the individual reviewer. I found another discussion of this film by a blogger that was more in-depth, interspersed with the history of the location where the film was shot and comments of the director about his ideas in making the film. He is the creator so his opinion is important to take into account when reviewing the movie he made. For example, the reviewer notes that other ancillary characters were not given prominence in the film. It was pretty much because the director intended it that way. To him, the only characters in the story were the mother, the son and money.

http://mydearkorea.blogspot.com/2012/09/korean-movies-review-on-kim-ki-duks.html

The pictures in this review tell a story of how in a capitalist system, while some of us get to enjoy its advantages, there are and will always be those who fall through the cracks...... into depravity and acts so horrendous that few imagine possible....

In the end, the creator of the film can do pretty much as he/she pleases for it is his/her story to tell. Similarly, its up to movie goers to accept/reject it..... to each his own.

0
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

ahhh.. i like this kind of point of view...thanks!

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

"...then you’re aware of the scene where Kang-do, in disbelief that Mi-sun is his mother, tests her by shoving his hand between her thighs. “You say I came out of here? Then can I go back in?”

OY.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

i'd like to see this cause of lee jung jin, seeing him in 100 yrs inheritance makes me wanna watch more of his previous projects! not sure if i like the incest part of the story but we'll see! it sounds very interesting n compelling after all it's kim ki duk's project!

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

what did lee jung jin do to his handsome face? his cheeks are too fat or bloated? did he undergo da knife i wonder? he's already handsome as always!

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Does anybody know what music is played while Kang-Do is burying Mi-Sun? I have been looking for it for so long :(

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

When I read the summary of this film I was surprised that its twist was so similar to Trace- a webtoon which had been published since 2011 or earlier. The only difference is that in the webtoon it's about a girl who tried to make the assassin love her dearly why in this movie the characters are fake mother and son relationship. But the motive, the revenge is the same while the revenge in the webtoon is less brutal and vulgar, it's quite unique, romantic and impressive as well. especially the "rose eating" part.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Currently Airing

Prime-Time Shows This Week
Monday-Tuesday (May 25-26) Wednesday-Thursday (May 27-28) Weekend (May 29-31)