Pietà (Hangul: 피에타) is a 2012 South Korean film. The 18th feature written and directed by Kim Ki-duk, it depicts the mysterious relationship between a brutal man who works for loan sharks and a middle-aged woman who claims that she is his mother, mixing Christian symbolism and highly sexual content.
It made its world premiere in the competition line-up of the 69th Venice International Film Festival, where it won the Golden Lion. It is the first Korean film to win the top prize at one of the three major international film festivals — Venice, Cannes and Berlin.
The title refers to the Italian Pietà (piety/pity), signifying depictions of the Virgin Mary cradling the corpse of Jesus.
Kang-do is a heartless man who has no living family members and whose job is to threaten debtors to repay his clients, the loan sharks who demand a 10x return on a one-month loan. To recover the interest, the debtors would sign an insurance for handicap, and Kang-do would injure the debtors brutally to file the claim. One day he receives a visit from a strange, middle-aged woman claiming she is his long-lost mother. Over the following weeks, the woman stubbornly follows him and he continues to do his job. But he is slowly moved and changed by the motherly love expressed from this woman.Lee Jung-jin ... Lee Kang-do
Jo Min-su ... Jang Mi-sun
Kang Eun-jin ... Myeong-ja, Hun-cheol's wife
Woo Gi-hong ... Hun-cheol
Cho Jae-ryong ... Tae-seung
Lee Myeong-ja ... Mother of man who committed suicide using drugs
Heo Jun-seok ... Man who committed suicide
Kwon Se-in ... Man with guitar
Song Mun-su ... Man who committed suicide by falling
Kim Beom-jun ... Myeongdong man
Son Jong-hak ... Loan shark boss
Jin Yong-ok ... Wheelchair man
Kim Seo-hyeon ... Old woman
Yu Ha-bok ... Container man
Seo Jae-gyeong ... Kid
Kim Jae-rok ... Monk
Lee Won-jang ... Sang-gu, committed suicide by hanging
Kim Sun-mo ... Jong-do's neighbour
Kang Seung-hyeon ... neighbouring shop owner
Hwang Sun-hui ... old woman
Pietà premiered in competition at the Venice Film Festival on September 4, 2012. It received theatrical release in South Korea on September 6, 2012.
The film has been sold to 20 countries for international distribution, including Italy, Germany, Russia, Norway, Turkey, Hong Kong, and Greece. Independent distributor, Drafthouse Films is doing a theatrical release in North America.
It was Korea's Foreign Language Film submission to the 85th Academy Awards, but it did not make the final shortlist.
The film's depiction of the violence and sexuality between Kang-do and the woman who claims to be his long-lost mother have provoked intense reactions and is debated by critics. Some of the most controversial scenes in the film includes when Kang-do feeds the woman a piece of his own flesh from his thigh, and a scene when he molests her, and asking her "I came out of here? Can I go back in?". There is another subsequent scene when she gives Kang-do a handjob.
The film won the Golden Lion prize at the 69th Venice International Film Festival. At its Venice press screening, it reportedly "elicited extremely mixed reactions". Hollywood director Michael Mann, who presided over the jury, said the film stood out because it "seduced you viscerally."
The film holds a 72/100 on Metacritic, and Rotten Tomatoes reports 73% approval among 52 critics. Deborah Young of The Hollywood Reporter described it as "an intense and, for the first hour, sickeningly violent film that unexpectedly segues into a moving psychological study." Young gave high praises to the film's acting performances, however states "it’s not an exaggeration to say there’s not a single pleasant moment in the film’s first half" and "Viewers will keep their eyes closed" for the majority of the film. Young further praised the visual style of the film with "Kim gives scenes a dark, hand-held look in which the frame edge disappears into black shadows. It’s not a particularly attractive style but does reflect the ugliness of its subject."
Leslie Felperin of Variety describes it as the director's "most commercial pic in years" though it nonetheless features the director's usual trademarks of "brutal violence, rape, animal slaughter and the ingestion of disgusting objects." Felperin further states the film is a "blend of cruelty, wit and moral complexity."
Dan Fainaru of Screen International states "Starting with a grisly suicide and ending with a burial, this isn’t an easy or pleasant film to watch."
Oliver Lyttelton of IndieWire praised the two lead actor's performances and their on-screen chemistry as mother and son: "there’s a real tenderness to the two performances, particularly that of Lee, who reverts from a strong-and-silent brute to easing into the childhood that he never got to live. And the disturbing, vaguely Oedipal relationship at the core is a fascinating one..." However Lyttelton gave the film a C+, and criticizes "It's a shame then, that in the second half of the film, the interestingly twisted mother-son relationship shifts gears and becomes something closer to the kind of revenge movie that Korean cinema has become known for. It's not quite a full-on genre exercise, but it’s probably the closest to such a thing that Kim's ever made, and while he has his own twists to provide, it's still a disappointingly conventional turn for the film to take."
2012 69th Venice Film FestivalGolden Lion
2012 32nd Korean Association of Film Critics AwardsBest Film
Best Director - Kim Ki-duk
Best Actress - Jo Min-su
FIPRESCI Korean Branch
2012 49th Grand Bell AwardsBest Actress - Jo Min-su
Special Jury Prize - Kim Ki-duk
2012 Korean Popular Culture and Art AwardsEun-gwan Order of Cultural Merit - Kim Ki-duk
Okgwan Order of Cultural Merit - Jo Min-su
Okgwan Order of Cultural Merit - Lee Jung-jin
2012 6th Asia Pacific Screen AwardsScreen International Jury Grand Prize - Jo Min-su
2012 33rd Blue Dragon Film AwardsBest Film
2012 2nd Shin Young-kyun Arts and Culture Foundation's Beautiful Artist AwardsGrand Prize - Kim Ki-duk
2012 Korean Art Critics' ConferenceBest Artist Award - Kim Ki-duk
2012 Women in Film Korea AwardsBest Technical Award - Park In-young (music director)
2012 Satellite AwardsSatellite Award for Best Foreign Language Film
2012 9th Dubai International Film FestivalBest Director (Muhr AsiaAfrica) - Kim Ki-duk
2012 Korea Film Actor's AssociationLifetime Achievement Award - Kim Ki-duk
Achievement Award - Jo Min-su
Achievement Award - Lee Jung-jin
2013 4th KOFRA Film Awards (Korea Film Reporters Association)Best Film of 2012
Best Actress - Jo Min-su
2013 23rd Fantasporto Director's WeekBest Film
Best Actress - Jo Min-su
2013 7th Asian Film AwardsPeople's Choice for Favorite Actress - Jo Min-su