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Pieta (Kim Ki-duk, 2012)

October 8, 2012

I’m not a hardcore Kim Ki-duk fan, so I can’t really compare his last effort to his previous works, but even if considered alone, Pieta is far from being the masterpiece that everyone is talking about.

The major problem is in the plot structure. Almost two thirds of the movie are spent repeating the same scene over and over again. So we see the main character going around, doing his job, which mainly consists in smashing indebted worker’s limbs to collect the money from their health insurance. It’s an interesting starting point, but as the film goes on, it becomes tedious after plenty of slammed doors, random kicks and slaps and characters shouting at each other. From what I’ve seen, repetitiveness is common in Ki-duk’s works, but here rather than being significant, it just seems a tired attempt to hide the absence of a real plot. The sudden appearance of a woman who claims to be the protagonist’s mother, which would be the main plot, doesn’t really change the film’s pace.

Certain Ki-duk’s movies became famous for being extreme in many ways. A film like Seom (The Isle, 2000) doesn’t offer gratuitous violence, but extreme acts portrayed by extreme characters.  Even if highly disturbing, violence mirrored the character’s twisted approach to reality, like a Greek tragedy. But this is not the case. Despite what I read, there’s nothing here that can even be compared to Ki-duk’s earlier movies. Violence is just suggested, and never takes place on screen, apart from some kicks and slaps, but nothing that won’t make you sleep at night. This is not necessarily a weakness, but the director’s choice isn’t even justified by a precise ideological approach, such as Haneke’s in Funny Games, just to name one. While in Seom the characters showed their inner self through their extreme acts rather than words, here they appear empty and their actions seem mostly random.

Another major weakness is in the dialogues. One of the strongest features of Ki-duk’s style was the capacity to unfold the plot without the need of dialogues. Here, not only characters talk all the time, but what they say is useless, blatant. They point out the obvious and, in the final scenes, even explain the plot twist, that had been already shown a few scenes earlier. The idea behind the film isn’t bad, but the sloppy way in which dialogues are used makes it seem almost idiotic. Not only the plot is explained, but even the ideological interpretation, if there is one, is highly anticipated by the same characters.

On the technical aspect, it seems that Ki-duk deliberately chose to give the movie a raw look, with shaky handheld camera, unnecessary zooms, and a general indifference for composition. The style is coherent with the plot, but a greater attention to details would have been better.  I consider Pieta a missed opportunity. The plot, while interesting, isn’t really developed. The movie is repetitive after a few scenes, dialogues are redundant, and the general atmosphere seems just a bland imitation of his previous style. But I don’t think Ki-duk isn’t capable of doing better, Pieta could and should have been better.

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