PIETA (104', Republic of Korea, 2011)


“The fine Cho, intensely mysterious as the mother, and Lee, totally ambiguous as the loan collector, make a duet of the absurd which Kim pushes to the limit in the film’s title, likening their relationship to the Christian Pietà and the Virgin Mary’s sorrow cradling the body of her dead son Jesus. This cross-cultural reference hovers uneasily over of a grating, unsettling story.” (Deborah Young, HOLLYWOOD REPORTER)


“The real violence here is financial. It’s clear that the economy, and the recession is first and foremost among the director’s concerns, and the way that Kang-do and his employers prey on those they know can never repay what they borrow has some clear parallels with the mainstream banking industry.” (Oliver Lyttelton, indiewire)


Winner of this year’s Golden Lion in Venice, PIETA by Kim Ki-duk, one of Korea's most innovative and talented filmmakers, is a humanistic movie, a harsh allegory about extreme capitalism and how it shapes and transforms human relationships. Money plays an very central role in the unraveling of the movie’s events, the director being quoted as saying that it is the third main character, alongside the mother and son. Referencing the famous masterpiece by Michelangelo, the movie uses the image of the Virgin Mary embracing the dead body of Jesus Christ to symbolize “an embrace of pain and suffering inherent in the entire human race, thus representing an understanding and a sharing of that pain.” (Kim Ki-duk, Venice press conference)


The movie tells the story of a man that lives as a loan shark, brutally threatening people for paybacks. Having no family, therefore with nothing to lose, he continues this merciless way of life regardless of all the pain he has caused to a countless number of people. One day, a woman appears in front of him claiming to be his mother that abandoned him at birth and taking the blame for the way he turned out. He coldly rejects her at first, but gradually accepts her in his life. Just when he decides to quit his cruel job and to live a decent life, the mother is kidnapped. Assuming that it would be by someone he had hurt in the past, he starts to track down all the people he had harmed. The man finally finds the one, only to discover that dark secrets are better left unrevealed. A nuanced story about revenge and complicity, the blame for the desperate situation isn’t entirely attributed to the ruthless loan shark, but also to the people that irrationally borrow and spend the money, without giving the consequences of their behavior much thought. In this morally ambiguous tale, the viewer is left with the grueling task of deciding whether or not any of the characters deserve mercy. (Diana Mereoiu, BIEFF 2012)

Director: KIM KI-DUK

With the support of:




Screenplay: KIM KI-DUK

Cinematography: JO YEONG-JIK

Editing: KIM KI-DUK



Producer: KIM SOON-MO


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“A director should not define everything. For me, the movie is a form of a question I pose to the others or to the audience. I want to ask their opinion on my point of view and discuss it with them. That is why the movie is so interesting medium. And that is also why my movies have no concrete answer, but the answers in progress that change constantly.” (KIM KI-DUK interview on dvdtalk.com)


"No other Korean director knows the mass of humanity, so used to despair and degradation, which hardly know a path to self-redemption, as well as KIM KI-DUK does. Yet his films are also full of imaginative and attractive graphic images, like sparks of fire shooting out of darkness.” (Kim So-Hee, film critic)


A household name for most movie critics and also one of the most controversial Korean directors, KIM KI-DUK is a self-taught filmmaker, known for taking on provocative and sensitive subject matter. His films are personal and unconventional, notorious for their hard-to-express characters, shocking visuals, and unprecedented messages. Although he is one on the most well-known and well received Korean directors on an international level, his films being constantly invited at prestigious festivals around the world, his work is met with mixed feelings in South Korea, being considered an “outsider”. The profoundly disenchanted worldview prevalent in many of his movies has been influenced by his past. Having dropped out of school and worked independently for some time, he enrols to study art in Paris after which he returns to Korea and begins his career as a filmmaker. After a series of films built on man’s ruin and rage, comes his 2003 feature, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring, an artistic turning point. Although it maintains its focus on the brutality of people, it’s a visibly more mature film. Having a contemplative tone, the movie acknowledges the world as a harsh place, but still finds the beauty in life. Nudity becomes context, not subject as in previous works. Roger Ebert observes that “the protagonist is life, and the antagonists are time and change. Nor is it that simple, because to be alive, you must come to terms with both of those opponents.” KIM KI-DUK‘s films usually feature ostracized and alienated protagonists that live on the margins of society. Revealing or saying very little about themselves, the characters are usually fascinating to observe for how they behave, rather than who they are. Their background is not very relevant to their actions, as they often defy their roles in society, not complying with its moral code. Many a time, it appears as if they lack the sense of morality altogether, not feeling any guilt or responsibility towards their acts of violence. This violence isn’t sought to be explained through narrative means, it isn’t meant to be made acceptable, or even understandable for that matter. Unsure of their motivations, the viewer is in a situation in which he can’t apply his own moral code, unable to identify himself with any of the protagonists. The director thus sets up a blank space for a new code of ethics, intrinsic to every movie. Each of KIM KI-DUK’s films is a new challenge to the viewer’s perception of morality.


Selective awards and recognition:

2012: Golden Lion Award, Golden Mouse, Little Golden Lion, Nazareno Taddei Award – Venice IFF for the feature PIETA

2011: Un Certain Regard – Cannes IFF - feature documentary ARIRANG

2005: FIPRESCI Award for Film of the Year – San Sebastian IFF  for the feature 3-IRON, Audience Award – San Sebastian IFF for the feature SPRING, SUMMER, FALL, WINTER…AND SPRING

2004: Silver Bear Award (Best Director Award) – Berlin IFF for the feature SAMARITAN GIRL; Silver Lion Award, Special Award for Best Direction, FIPRESCI Award for Best Film, SIGNIS Award - Honourable Mention – Venice IFF for 3-IRON

2003: Youth Jury Prize, Don Quixote Prize, CICAE / ARTE PRIZE, NETPAC Award – Locarno IFF for SPRING, SUMMER, FALL, WINTER…AND SPRING; FIPRESCI Award – Karlovy Vary IFF for the feature THE COAST GUARD

2002: Grand Prix – Fukuoka for the feature BAD GUY

2001: Golden Raven Award – Brussels IFF for the feature THE ISLE


Golden Lion for Best Film, Golden Mouse, Little Golden Lion and the Nazareno Taddei Award - Venice Film Festival 2012 / Toronto International Film Festival 2012 / Busan International Film Festival 2012 / Hamburg Filmfest 2012 / Sitges Film Festival 2012 / Haifa International Film Festival 2012 etc.


“From great wars to trivial crimes today, I believe all of us living in this age are accomplices and sinners to such. As no one is free from a deity, I decided to name this film PIETA, in seeking God’s mercy. Money inevitably puts people to the test in a capitalist society, and people today are obsessed with a fantasy that money can solve anything. Money is the problem for most of the incidents that occur today. In this film, two people who give and receive pain over money, unlikely to meet, come across each other and become family. And through such family, we realize that we are accomplices to everything that occurs in our period. Ultimately, we will end up becoming money to each other and grind ourselves on asphalt.” (KIM KI-DUK)