Friday, August 9, 2013

Film Review: Pieta (2012)

Pieta (Review)
South Korea/2012
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"The story is twisted and unbelievable, something that many South Korean film fans may be accustomed to by now."

Kang-do (Lee Jung-jin) is a brutal loan shark, making cripples of those that cannot afford the criminal interest rate. A woman (Jo Min-su) starts to follow Kang-do claiming to be his long lost mother.

Pieta is part social commentary, part revenge thriller. The story follows Kang-do as he reconnects with his mother after 30 years -- 30 years of harsh loneliness and brutality towards others. During this phase, we learn as much about Kang-do as we learn of his mother, which isn't much, but it feels like enough; the character development creates an effective story which, in turn, makes its themes feel genuine. Attempting to leave his life as a loan shark, Kang-do must face his inner-demons and his past actions; in fact, Kang-do must revisit his past to achieve redemption. This bleak tale leads up to a twisted ending -- a genuinely unexpected, unforgettable, and gripping finale.

Pieta is as entertaining as it meaningful. (Not "happy blockbuster" entertaining, but dark, effective entertaining.) The film covers themes of life, death, love, and commercialism through its well written story and subtle symbolism. However, I didn't feel like the film preached in any way. Instead of making a strong statement, Pieta is a thought-provoking, discussion-promoting film. What is life? What is death? What is revenge? What is redemption? What is money? I had to ask myself these questions many times over, willingly contemplating these concepts, while keeping this experience in mind.

Lee Jung-jin and Jo Min-su are superb. There are a few scenes of overacting, but those are excusable, or more like redeemed. Both actors show genuine emotion through their facial expressions, as well as the tone of voice, which I think is an accomplishment. Kim Ki-duk is fantastic as writer and director, crafting a meaningful and entertaining tale; provoking contemplation without sacrificing story, character, or entertainment. It is often unsettling and disturbing, but it isn't exactly graphic; much of the violence and sexual acts are implied, or performed off-screen.

The cinematography and music is fantastic. Both elements compliment each other and create a very bleak yet glowing atmosphere; contradictory, yes, but this isn't an easy movie to interpret or explain, so bare with me. And both elements are further exemplified on the fantastic Drafthouse Blu-ray; I highly recommend this definitive version, this is a film worth watching in high definition as it really helps evoke the proper emotion. The bleakness of the film is highlighted, which is important.

Overall, Pieta is a very effective revenge/drama film. The story is twisted and unbelievable, something that many South Korean film fans may be accustomed to by now. The themes and symbolism is crafted masterfully, which further adds to the film's effectiveness, further marking Pieta as a versatile and unforgettable masterpiece.

Score: 10/10
Parental Guide: Some strong violence and blood, and strong sexuality, including an attempted rape. (there is no graphic violence or nudity, but the implication is strong.)

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