“Pieta” is a Renaissance masterpiece sculpture made by Michelangelo, depicting the Virgin Mary cradling the corpse of Jesus. Kim Ki-Duk loosely adopt the idea of the sculpture into a movie “Pieta” that brought him a Golden Lion statue from the 69th Venice International Film Festival. In brief, “Pieta” is a depressing parable of modern relationship of mother and son. With its intense sexual and violence content, “Pieta” might not be a film that everybody can enjoy. I found that it’s really bleak, but successfully touched me right on the soul.
SYNOPSIS > Lee Kang-Do (Lee Jung-Jin) is a violent man with no family members. He works for a loan-shark that demands 10 times return for every debtor. If the debtors do not pay until the due date, Kang-Do will visit them, ask them to sign an insurance agreement, and brutally injure them to file the insurance claim (and recover the loan). With the heartless daily life he lives, one day a middle age woman named Jang Mi-sun (Cho Min-soo) comes to Kang-Do, claiming that she is his long-lost mother. Kang-Do doesn’t trust her and tries to expel her, but she keeps following him. So Kang-Do has to reconsider his life to accept Mi-sun as his mother.
|Cho Min-soo as Mi-sun, a motherly-loving woman that suddenly came into a heartless man's life.|
REVIEW > Just from the very first scene of “Pieta”, viewers will notice that this is not an easy, amusing film to watch. A man on a wheelchair tied a chain hook around his neck and pushed a button so that the chain pulled him up and hanged him above his wheel chair. A not so graphic but emotionally disturbing opening scene, and the next 8 minutes successfully introduces me with Kang-Do’s brutality and violence. This sets down the atmosphere of “Pieta”, a low-mood film with barely any scenes that at least could make you smile a bit. Moreover, I think “Pieta” takes you to set your mood first before watching it so that you could absorb and “tolerate” the depression it brings to you. Because, if you don’t, probably you’ll find that it is boring, meaningless, and aimless. I want to point out that for me, the feeling that “Pieta” tries to transfer to the viewers isn’t just only depression. It rounds up into a big idea that stabs me right on the heart.
And about the sexual and violence content, at first I thought that it would be disturbing. For me, well, it wasn’t that disturbing. In “Pieta”, you’ll be served with a sort of awkward scenes that depicted the true relationship between man and his mother. Ki-Duk is a genius; he tried to explore other forms of interactivity between a mother and his son out of conventional fashion, and reshape them into a package of character study of the mother and the son severally. In a scene, Kang-Do, with his violent mind, tried to convince himself that Mi-sun was his real mother by asking her to eat something: his flesh (we see blood dripping from his thigh, depicting that he cut a flesh out of his thigh and fed her with it). Or, remember when Kang-Do shoved his hand to Mi-sun’s private area, and while she screamed out, Kang-Do yelled, “I came out of here? Can I go back in?”. Again, not so graphic, but emotionally disturbing.
|The tone of "Pieta" is low, mostly gray and silhouette, just like the theme of the story itself.|
Kim Ki-Duk likes to show the emotion of his movie not by wordy dialogues, but by visual. It makes “Pieta” feels silent and plain, except with the gloomy background music that slowly drags you to feel the same emotion. Most of the scenes are grayish, shadow-ish, and silhouette, with barely no vivid colors to show up a little piece of bliss around the film. Not that kind of movie you could watch in your happy weekend, I think. Bleakness is prominent in “Pieta”, and remember to prepare yourself (both emotionally and physically) because if you don’t, you might fall asleep just in the first minutes. The feeling of self-retrospection does not necessarily stand out among other feelings, but for me that was what I felt. I mean, well, “Pieta” takes a longer shot analogy of a relationship between a son and his mother and this is not that kind of closer-to-real-life story, but however analogized the story is, the big idea is simple: how a son is supposed to be devoted to his mother.
And applause should be given to the mother-and-son duo: Lee Jung-Jin and Cho Min-soo. Jung-Jin succeeded playing Kang-Do with his heartless mind. More than that, Jung-Jin also succeeded to give Kang-Do a sense of a pure little boy out of his maturity. He did show development of Kang-Do before and after meeting his long-lost mother. For me, the movie’s final scene is undoubtedly a proof and a climaxing show-off by Jung-Jin. Meanwhile, Min-soo was also a great performer. She nicely characterized Mi-sun as a loving mom, although I think her character development was less interesting than that of Kang-Do. The chemistry of the two main roles was not that convincing, but perhaps this was the result of the awkward way they took to show their relationship (which I found—well—weird).
|Lee Jung-Jin as Kang-Do. A very great character development from a son who met his long-lost mom.|
CONCLUSION > “Pieta” is gloomy, but not tear-jerking. This is a relatively new way to show a tragic relationship of a mother and son, and while mostly it is depressing, in a way “Pieta” is also thought-provoking. Not a very achieving one, but I think “Pieta” is fresh. A dreary package of a morality tale of a mother and son.
▲ A fresh and modern adaptation of conventional mom-and-son story, great acting by the performers
▼ Plain due to its bleakness, weird scenes between mother and son that not everyone could clearly understand
PIETA | COUNTRY South Korea YEAR 2012 RATING n.a. RUNTIME 104 min GENRE Drama CAST Cho Min-Soo, Lee Jung-Jin, Kang Eun-Jin, Woo Gi-Hong, Cho Jae-Ryong WRITER Kim Ki-Duk DIRECTOR Kim Ki-Duk MORE INFO