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Film / Pieta

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Kang-do: "What is money?"
Mi-Sun: "Money? The beginning and end of all things. Love, honor, violence, fury, hatred, jealousy, revenge, death."

Pietà is a 2012 thriller/drama directed by Ki-duk Kim. It centers around a man named Lee Kang-do, who is a loan shark and known to be brutal and cruel. One day, he is follow by a mysterious woman Jang Mi-sun who claims to be his lost mother. Initially, Kang-do shrugs her off, but later accepts her.

It uses a lot of Christian themes and symbolism, but since it's by Ki-duk Kim, expect a lot of Nightmare Fuel and Tear Jerker scenes.

This movie is notable for being the first Korean-language film to win Golden Lion award at Venice Film Festival, and also the very first Korean film to win the top prize at one of big 3 film festival - Berlin, Cannes, and Venice.


This film provides examples of:

  • Character Development: Throughout the film, Kang-do transform from a cruel and sadistic to a vulnerable and emotional man who learns what it means to be a true human.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Many characters are pushed into this due to the loss of their love ones.
  • Downer Ending: Hoo boy.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Kang-do is a pretty terrible guy by all accounts, but he grows to love Mi-sun and becomes somewhat of a better person for it. Unfortunately it's not enough to save him.
  • Freudian Excuse: Kang-do is very angry at his mother for abandoning him as a child, and some of his brutality seems to stem from never being loved by anyone. Once he gets love from Mi-sun, he becomes a better person.
  • Laser-Guided Karma:Kang-do's character arc is basically this with deconstruction.
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  • Loan Shark: Kang-do works as an enforcer for a loan shark. If the debtors can't pay, Kang-do's job is to maim them so his boss can collect insurance money.
  • Mama Bear: Mi-sun is incredibly protective Kang-do, willing to chew out random people who give him a hard time despite barely knowing him. She puts herself through a whole lot of grief, including being raped by Kang-do who she secretly hates, in order to get revenge for her real son.
  • Missing Mom: Kang-do's mother wasn't around when he was growing up, which seems to have contributed to his brutality. When he first meets Mi-sun, he claims to not have a mother.
  • Moral Myopia: The people who are victimize or lost their relative thanks to Kang-do turns out to be no better, as they feel no empathy toward Kang-do's causes.
  • Parental Incest: Kang-do rapes Mi-sun at one point. Later on she gives him handjobs in a seemingly consensual manner.
  • The Powerof Love: Jang Mi-sun's motherly love and caring helps Kang-do learns how to love and feel empathy and suffering for the first time.
  • Pietà Plagiarism: The main characters positions mimic it on theatrical posters and the actual Pieta sculpture is feature on DVD.
  • Revenge: One of the recurring themes of the film. Mi-Sun integrates herself into Kang-do's life as an elaborate plot to avenge her real son, who was harmed by Kang-do.
  • Villain Protagonist: Kang-do is a violent Jerkass who's ruined many people's lives, while his victims try to get revenge on him, but he's the protagonist. He does get some growth though.