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Pieta by Ki-duk Kim

January 5, 2013

 Kim’s fans who have not yet seen his new film don’t need to be scared by what has been written by some reviewers, because, yes, there is a certain degree of truth if we said Pieta is the closest Kim has come in his career to Korean mainstream cinema, but at the same time there is an abundance of the usual features of a Ki-duk Kim film: violence, self-mutilation, rape, even cannibalism! The images are not as graphic as they were in the past (sorry The Isle fans) but they are far from subtleness all the same. The film was in competition at Venice last September and came out of it with the Golden Lion, the award awakened national pride in South Korea and made of Kim – a complete unknown in his own country until then – a Korean hero: Korean cinema has been the biggest novelty in cinema in the last fifteen years and in my opinion it’s a pity that the first director from this country to win a major award in one of the great European festivals is Ki-duk Kim, Chang-dong Lee and many others should have deserved this kind of luck. I guess all this happened for a reason: Kim’s films have an undeniably European feeling which is absolutely nonexistent in the work of his Korean colleagues, the works of Bong and Park are box-office hits in Korea, while Kim’s films are hardly released there, they seem to exist for the Western festival circuit only. But let’s talk about Pieta.






The title of the film leaves no doubts about the plot: Pieta is the Italian word for a mother mourning a son, and when you know this there will be no surprise when in the first scene we witness the suicide of a young man, but who and where is the mother? and how is she going to mourn, to elaborate the grief for her loss? Pieta is a film rich in dialogues – read it: giving Kim’s spare dialoguing habits – but the story is carried forward mainly by scenes with a heavy symbolic meaning and since Pieta is a manifest symbol of Christianity, such religious symbolism abounds so as it always happens with Kim’s films you are not following the evolution of the story – not much going on anyway and what’s going on is rather predictable – because you are busy decrypting and interpreting his visuals and investigating the possible reasons/meanings connecting them. The main problem of the film is its impossibility to conciliate the Christian idea of Pieta with the interpretation of it given by Kim, who – no matter what he does or films – doesn’t belong to European culture, and his take of Pieta is remarkable for its abstruseness only. Once again Kim tells a banal story employing sophisticated imagery, but he has won the Golden Lion, so I guess this is once again the time when someone who goes around naked can hope someone else will make him a king.

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