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Film Review: Pieta
by Birgit Schrumpf

In his 18th film the Korean director and writer Ki-duk Kim confronts us with some extremely ugly, haunting scenes. Lee Kang-do (Lee Jung-jin) is a pitiless money collector, a smooth looking man in his early 30s. His clients work in crowded small machine shops in Seoul’s industrial slum. When the workers cannot pay off their loans he does not hesitate to mutilate them to collect their insurance claim. A young worker is so keen to receive a fresh loan in order to afford food for his new baby that he even offers one of his limbs.

One day Kang-do is followed by a beautiful, mysterious woman (Cho Min-soo). She claims to be his mother, begging forgiveness for deserting him as a baby. He is suspicious, kicking her off his steps. When she will not leave, he violently rapes her (tough to watch). She still persists, easing her way into his life. Slowly, his façade is cracking. The young man who has never known tenderness develops an attachment to the motherly woman. This is when the story gets an unforeseen twist, developing into a psychological study. Despite the slow moving action, it is engrossing until an unexpected melancholic end.

The Korean director Ki-duk Kim presents two main themes, the value of money in our society, making you aware that “everything has its price” and the question of revenge, of love and forgiveness.

Pieta won the Golden Lion award at the 69th Venice International Film Festival. At the 20th Filmfest Hamburg Ki-duk Kim received the Douglas Sirk Prize for his life’s work.