Pietà (film)

Pietà (Korean피에타) 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.[3][4][5][6][7]

Pieta poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Revised RomanizationPieta
Directed byKim Ki-duk
Produced byKim Soon-mo
Kim Ki-duk
Written byKim Ki-duk
StarringLee Jung-jin
Jo Min-su
Music byPark In-young
CinematographyCho Young-jik
Edited byKim Ki-duk
Distributed byNEW
(South Korea)
Drafthouse Films
(United States)
Release date
  • September 3, 2012 (2012-09-03) (Venice Film Festival)
  • September 6, 2012 (2012-09-06) (South Korea)
Running time
104 minutes
CountrySouth Korea[1]
Box officeUS$3,601,250[2]

It made its world premiere in the competition line-up of the 69th Venice International Film Festival,[8][9] where it won the Golden Lion.[10][11] It is the first Korean film to win the top prize at one of the three major international film festivals—Venice, Cannes and Berlin.[12][13][14][15][16][17]

The title refers to the Italian Pietà (piety/pity), signifying depictions of the Virgin Mary cradling the corpse of Jesus.


Kang-do leads a solitary life as a seemingly heartless and brutal debt collector for his clients, loan sharks who demand a 10x return on a one-month loan. To recover the massive interest, the debtors sign an insurance application for handicaps, and Kang-do injures them to file the claim.

On one such instance Kang-do visits Hun-cheol, who works in a decrepit factory with his wife Myeong-ja. The small loan he took out a month ago has snowballed into a much larger figure, and Kang-do arrives to cripple him and file the claim. In an act of desperation, Myeong-ja tries to seduce Kang-do by stripping, begging him to give them another week to get the money for the interest. Kang-do strips her bra, but refuses to have sex with her. He cripples Hun-cheol and files for the insurance.

Later, he notices he is being followed by a middle aged woman. She claims that she is his biological mother, who abandoned him 30 years ago, and introduces herself as Mi-sun. Despite initially pushing her away, Kang-do eventually lets her into his life and opens up to her, mellowing in the process. He is less harsh in pursuing interest, on one occasion refusing to injure a young factory worker who is about to become a father. Seemingly innocent on the surface, Kang-do's relationship with Mi-sun is disturbed by his abandonment anxiety and his life growing up without a mother figure, which manifests itself in sexual ways. Kang-do molests her, asking "I came out of here? Can I go back in?". Another time he tries to get into bed with her and put his face against her breasts. Both times he is pushed away and she is uncomfortable.

On an outing with his mother, Kang-do is childishly excited and whimsical. When insulted by a bystander, he almost gets into a physical altercation. They are followed home by one of the debtors Kang-do has crippled, who is now a beggar. The beggar holds Kang-do's mother hostage as revenge for crippling him, but is mortally wounded in the altercation. Frightened by the situation, Kang-do asks Mi-sun not to go outside without him for her safety.

As Kang-do's birthday approaches, Mi-sun fakes a kidnapping and leaves the house. It is revealed that she isn't actually Kang-do's biological mother, but instead the mother of a deceased debtor Kang-do crippled in the past. Not knowing this, Kang-do desperately chases every person he crippled in the past in order to find Mi-sun. He meets Myeong-ja and Hun-cheol, who now live fully on Myeong-ja's earnings. Hun-cheol cannot work due to his disability and relies on Myeong-ja's job selling food at the side of a highway to live. Kang-do is forced to face the consequences of his job as a loan shark, as many of his debtors either die or live in poverty.

Mi-sun commits suicide in front of Kang-do, but expresses pity for him before doing so. After her death Kang-do realizes she isn't his mother, and buries her next to her son. Kang-do commits suicide by tying himself underneath Myeong-ja's truck, which she unknowingly drives, leaving behind a steady trail of his blood.[18]


  • Lee Jung-jin as Lee Kang-do
  • Jo Min-su as Jang Mi-sun
  • Kang Eun-jin as Myeong-ja, Hun-cheol's wife
  • Woo Gi-hong as Hun-cheol
  • Cho Jae-ryong as Tae-seung
  • Lee Myeong-ja as Mother of man who committed suicide using drugs
  • Heo Jun-seok as Man who committed suicide
  • Kwon Se-in as Man with guitar
  • Song Mun-su as Man who committed suicide by falling
  • Kim Beom-jun as Myeongdong man
  • Son Jong-hak as Loan shark boss
  • Jin Yong-ok as Wheelchair man
  • Kim Seo-hyeon as Old woman
  • Yu Ha-bok as Container man
  • Seo Jae-gyeong as Kid
  • Kim Jae-rok as Monk
  • Lee Won-jang as Sang-gu, committed suicide by hanging
  • Kim Sun-mo as Jong-do's neighbour
  • Kang Seung-hyeon as neighbouring shop owner
  • Hwang Sun-hui as old woman


Violence and sexual contentEdit

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.[19] 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,[19] and a scene when he molests her, and asking her "I came out of here? Can I go back in?".[19] There is another subsequent scene when she gives Kang-do a handjob.[19]


Pietà premiered in competition at the Venice Film Festival on September 4, 2012.[20][21][22][23][24][25][26] It received theatrical release in South Korea on September 6, 2012.[27][28][29][30][31]

The film has been sold to 20 countries for international distribution, including Italy, Germany, Russia, Norway, Turkey, Hong Kong, and Greece.[32] Independent distributor, Drafthouse Films is doing a theatrical release in North America.[33][unreliable source?]

It was Korea's Foreign Language Film submission to the 85th Academy Awards, but it did not make the final shortlist.[34][35][36][37]


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".[38][39] Hollywood director Michael Mann, who presided over the jury, said the film stood out because it "seduced you viscerally."[16][40][41]

The film holds a 72/100 on Metacritic,[42] and Rotten Tomatoes reports 73% approval among 52 critics.[43] 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."[38] 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.[38] 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."[38]

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."[44] Felperin further states the film is a "blend of cruelty, wit and moral complexity."[44]

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."[45]

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..."[46] However Lyttelton gave the film a C+, and criticizes "It's a shame then, that in the second half of the film, the 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."[46]


Awards Category Recipient Result Ref.
69th Venice International Film Festival Golden Lion Kim Ki-duk Won
Golden Mouse Won
Little Golden Lion Won
Nazareno Taddei Award Won
Black Movie Film Festival Critics Prize Nominated
Tokyo Filmex Audience Award Won
32nd Korean Association of Film Critics Awards Best Film Pietà Won [47]
Best Director Kim Ki-duk Won
Best Actress Jo Min-su Won
FIPRESCI Award Pietà Won
49th Grand Bell Awards Best Film Nominated [48]
Best Director Kim Ki-duk Nominated
Best Actress Jo Min-su Won
Best Supporting Actress Kang Eun-jin Nominated
Best New Actress Nominated
Best New Actor Woo Gi-hong Nominated
Special Jury Prize Kim Ki-duk Won
Korean Popular Culture and Art Awards Order of Cultural Merit Won [49]
Order of Cultural Merit Jo Min-su Won
Lee Jung-jin Won
6th Asia Pacific Screen Awards Best Actress Jo Min-su Nominated [50]
Jury Grand Prize Won
33rd Blue Dragon Film Awards Best Film Pietà Won [51][52][53]
Best Director Kim Ki-duk Nominated
Best Leading Actress Jo Min-su Nominated
2nd Shin Young-kyun Arts and Culture Foundation's Beautiful Artist Awards Grand Prize (Daesang) Kim Ki-duk Won [54]
Korean Art Critics' Conference Best Artist Award Won [55]
Women in Film Korea Awards Best Technical Award (Music Composer) Park In-young Won [56]
17th Satellite Awards Best Director Kim Ki-duk Nominated [57]
Best Original Screenplay Pietà Nominated
Best Foreign Language Film Won
9th Dubai International Film Festival Best Director (Muhr AsiaAfrica) Kim Ki-duk Won [58]
Korea Film Actor's Association Lifetime Achievement Award Won [59]
Achievement Award Jo Min-su Won
Lee Jung-jin Won
4th KOFRA Film Awards Best Film Pietà Won [60][61]
Best Actress Jo Min-su Won
23rd Fantasporto Director's Week Best Film Pietà Won [62]
Best Actress Jo Min-su Won
7th Asian Film Awards Best Film Pietà Nominated [63][64][65]
Best Director Kim Ki-duk Nominated
Best Actress Jo Min-su Nominated
Favorite Actress Won
49th Baeksang Arts Awards Best Film Pietà Nominated
Best Director Kim Ki-duk Nominated
Best Actress Jo Min-su Nominated
22nd Buil Film Awards Best Actress Nominated
Best Art Direction Lee Hyun-joo Nominated

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Park, Eun-jee (12 August 2012). "Movies at the palace: Sensible or sacrilege?". Archived from the original on 3 January 2013.
  2. ^ "Pieta (2013)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 30 May 2014.
  3. ^ "It's a story about victims and attackers". Korean Film Biz Zone. 27 August 2012.
  4. ^ "KIM Ki-duk goes to Venice with PIETA". Korea Cinema Today. 7 August 2012.
  5. ^ Cho, Jae-eun (27 July 2012). "Renowned director juxtaposes sexuality and religion in Pieta". Korea JoongAng Daily. Archived from the original on 15 September 2012.
  6. ^ "Kim Ki-duk back with new film Pieta". The Korea Herald. 20 July 2012.
  7. ^ Lee, Rachel (9 September 2012). "From eccentric to darling of Venice". The Korea Times.
  8. ^ Rachel Lee, Kwaak Je-yup (29 August 2012). "Kim Ki-duk's Pieta in competition at Venice". The Korea Times.
  9. ^ "Korean morality tale premieres at Venice film fest". The Korea Herald. 5 September 2012.
  10. ^ Ji, Yong-jin (10 September 2012). "Venice chooses KIM Ki-duk". Korean Film Biz Zone.
  11. ^ "Outsider Kim Ki-duk's Pieta Wins Top Prize in Venice". The Chosun Ilbo. 10 September 2012.
  12. ^ "Venice festival winner a hard-hitting morality tale". The Korea Herald. 9 September 2012.
  13. ^ Lee, Claire (9 September 2012). "Kim Ki-duk becomes 1st Korean director to win top film prize at Venice". The Korea Herald.
  14. ^ Lee, Claire (9 September 2012). "Former laborer becomes acclaimed filmmaker". The Korea Herald.
  15. ^ "Kim Ki-duk: from monster with 'inferiority complex' to master director". The Korea Herald. 9 September 2012.
  16. ^ a b Kim, Ji-soo (9 September 2012). "Director Kim Ki-duk takes Venice". The Korea Times.
  17. ^ Park, Eun-jee (10 September 2012). "In dramatic style, Kim makes movie history". Korea JoongAng Daily. Archived from the original on 11 September 2012.
  18. ^ Elley, Derek (8 September 2012). "Pietà". Film Business Asia.
  19. ^ a b c d "TIFF Day 10: Pieta x 13". Cinema Scope.
  20. ^ Lee, Claire (27 July 2012). "Kim Ki-duk's Pieta goes to Venice". The Korea Herald.
  21. ^ "Kim Ki-duk Invited to Venice for 4th Time with Pieta". The Chosun Ilbo. 27 July 2012.
  22. ^ "Kim Ki-duk's new film up for competition in Venice fest". The Korea Times. 27 July 2012.
  23. ^ "Pieta tipped for Venice win". The Korea Herald. 7 September 2012.
  24. ^ "Directors Kim Ki-duk, Takeshi Kitano see Asian art house in crisis". Korea JoongAng Daily. 7 September 2012. Archived from the original on 26 January 2013.
  25. ^ Lee, Eun-sun (7 September 2012). "With 5-star reviews, PIETA is becoming a critical darling". Korean Film Biz Zone.
  26. ^ "Director Kim unchanged by Venice triumph". The Korea Herald. 12 September 2012.
  27. ^ Kwaak, Je-yup (6 September 2012). "Pieta filled with bloody revenge". The Korea Times.
  28. ^ Lee, Claire (6 September 2012). "Kim Ki-duk returns with brutal revenge tale". The Korea Herald.
  29. ^ Cho, Chung-un (10 September 2012). "Can Pieta enjoy success at home?". The Korea Herald.
  30. ^ "'Memory of teen years hit him at most honorable moment in Venice'". The Korea Times. 11 September 2012.
  31. ^ "Golden Lion Winner Explains 'Shabby' Venice Outfit". The Chosun Ilbo. 13 September 2012.
  32. ^ Kim, Hyun-min (10 September 2012). "Director KIM Ki-duk's reputation goes world-wide". Korean Film Biz Zone.
  33. ^ Cangialosi, Jason (19 October 2012). "Drafthouse Films Acquires Korean Oscar Contender, Kim Ki-duk's Pietà". Yahoo! Voices. Archived from the original on 29 July 2014.
  34. ^ "Pieta to compete for Oscar's best foreign film award". The Korea Times. 13 September 2012.
  35. ^ Lee, Hye-ji (13 September 2012). "Kim Ki-duk's Pieta to Vie for Oscar Nomination". 10Asia.
  36. ^ Noh, Jean (13 September 2012). "South Korea selects Pieta as Oscar submission". Screen International.
  37. ^ Kim, Nemo (24 December 2012). "Pieta out of the Oscar Race". 10Asia.
  38. ^ a b c d Young, Deborah (3 September 2012). "Pieta: Venice Review". The Hollywood Reporter.
  39. ^ Ji, Yong-jin (6 September 2012). "Venice gives PIETA a ten-minute standing ovation". Korean Film Biz Zone.
  40. ^ Belloni, Matthew (8 September 2012). "Venice Film Festival Jury Yanks Top Prize from The Master (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter.
  41. ^ Thuburn, Dario (10 September 2012). "Pieta win in Venice clouded by controversy". Rappler.com.
  42. ^ "Pieta Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved November 6, 2016.
  43. ^ "Pieta (2013)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved November 6, 2016.
  44. ^ a b Felperin, Leslie (4 September 2012). "Pieta (South Korea)". Variety.
  45. ^ Fainaru, Dan (4 September 2012). "Pieta". Screen International.
  46. ^ a b Lyttelton, Oliver (4 September 2012). "Venice Review: Kim Ki-Duk's Pieta Is A Bruising Mother-Son Relationship Drama That Ultimately Disappoints". IndieWire.
  47. ^ Ji, Yong-jin (9 November 2012). "PIETA, Critics' No.1 Choice". Korean Film Biz Zone.
  48. ^ Lee, Claire (30 October 2012). "Gwanghae sweeps Daejong Film Awards". The Korea Herald.
  49. ^ Ji, Yong-jin (21 November 2012). "PIETA Shines Once Again". Korean Film Biz Zone.
  50. ^ Jang, Sung-ran (27 November 2012). "Korean Films Shine in Asia-Pacific Region and Europe". Korean Film Biz Zone.
  51. ^ Ji, Yong-jin (4 December 2012). "PIETA Wins Best Picture at Blue Dragon Awards". Korean Film Biz Zone.
  52. ^ Lee, Claire (2 December 2012). "Pieta wins top prize at Blue Dragon Awards". The Korea Herald.
  53. ^ Sunwoo, Carla (4 December 2012). "Pieta gets Best Film at Blue Dragon Awards". Korea JoongAng Daily. Archived from the original on 13 December 2012.
  54. ^ Ji, Yong-jin (28 November 2012). "KIM Ki-duk Scores Another Brilliant Achievement". Korean Film Biz Zone.
  55. ^ Ji, Yong-jin (12 December 2012). "KIM Ki-duk, the Greatest Artist of the Year". Korean Film Biz Zone.
  56. ^ Kim, Hyun-min (6 December 2012). "BYUN Young-joo Selected as the Woman Filmmaker of 2012". Korean Film Biz Zone.
  57. ^ Kilday, Gregg (16 December 2012). "Silver Linings Playbook Wins Five Satellite Awards, Including Best Picture". The Hollywood Reporter.
  58. ^ Conran, Pierce (17 December 2012). "KIM Ki-duk Picks Up Best Director at Dubai Film Festival". Korean Film Biz Zone.
  59. ^ Ji, Yong-jin (2 January 2013). "Korea Film Actor's Association Holds Year-end Event". Korean Film Biz Zone.
  60. ^ Sunwoo, Carla (1 February 2013). "Pieta is a hit with the journalists". Korea JoongAng Daily. Archived from the original on 11 February 2013.
  61. ^ Ji, Yong-jin (1 February 2013). "PIETA Regarded as the Best Film in 2012 by Reporters". Korean Film Biz Zone.
  62. ^ Conran, Pierce (12 March 2013). "Multiple Awards for Korean Films at Fantasporto". Korean Film Biz Zone.
  63. ^ "Cho Min-soo Named Most Popular Actress at Asian Film Awards". The Chosun Ilbo. 20 March 2013.
  64. ^ Lee, Sun-min (20 March 2013). "Pieta's Cho Min-soo awarded for role". Korea JoongAng Daily. Archived from the original on 11 April 2013.
  65. ^ Conran, Pierce (21 March 2013). "CHO Min-soo Picks up People's Choice Award for Favorite Actress". Korean Film Biz Zone.

External linksEdit