Pieta - Cinema Review

'This is the South Korean revenge flick filmed with the visual 'flair' of Mike Leigh.'

The deeply unpleasant action of Pieta's first half is somewhat tempered by the significant reveals contained in its second, though whether you will be willing or interested enough to go along with them by then is somewhat of a uncertain prognosis. Kim Ki-duk's latest is a film laced with misogyny, unrepentant violence and awkward taboo-breaking, filmed with a grizzly eye that detracts from the stylisation sometimes present in the work of his peers. This is the South Korean revenge flick filmed with the visual 'flair' of Mike Leigh.

The violence in this genre then is a given, though whether it is wise to include a scene in which the protagonist whips a woman with her own bra, in a film already open to accusations of misogyny, is quite another thing altogether. Away from some of the disturbing fingers-caught-in-industrial-machinery punishment that lead Lee Jeong-jin dishes out, it is the everyday presentation of the female characters that feels most misjudged and at least as troubling as the more visceral on screen elements. Returning home to see her child for the first time in several years, what does Jo Min-soo's character spend her days doing? Cooking, cleaning, knitting. There are very few points when this feels like a progressive film.

At times, perhaps most disappointingly, it also doesn't feel as though Ki-duk is in control of all of the ideas he tries to force into the narrative, though their presence does add some interest. The title, backed up by some of the promotional shots, refers to a Michaelangelo statue depicting Mary cradling Jesus. The problem is that, apart from some scars on his torso, there is very little messianic about Gang-do (Jeong-jin) and, eventually, little of the Mary about Mi-son (Min-soo). It feels like something that might have formed the genesis of Ki-duk's first ideas around the film, but which then got lost amongst everything else going on.

You'd think that perhaps a huge religious motif, looming over the film's poster, might be enough for the large ideas, but the fact that it is dropped is evidence of the other elements, which receive similarly incomplete service. All of Gang-do's victims are small industrial workers, trying to scrape a living together in a harsh economic climate, a ripe area for comment on what people are driven to when recession hits. Similarly, that many of these people have chosen, and continue to choose, a vicious moneylender as a route out seems to speak to individual's self-destructive power, certainly when you get to know a handful of those involved.

But all this is near-lost amongst Ki-duk's furtive mid-shot zooms, in a film that never feels confident. And if you're going to make a vicious revenge Thriller, you really do need a lot of confidence.




Pieta is released in UK cinemas on Friday 6th September.


By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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