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Review: 'Pieta'

May 17, 2013 12:49 p.m.

KPBS film critic Beth Accomando reviews "Pieta."

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This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

ANCHOR INTRO: The term Pieta refers to a representation of the Virgin Mary holding the dead body of Christ. It’s also the name of a Korean film opening this weekend. But KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando says the film serves up a very twisted take on motherly devotion.

Korean cinema often presents torn emotions and aching sadness that seems influenced by the fact it’s a country divided with family members sometimes ending up on opposite sides of the border. Filmmakers don’t address this directly but rather come at it subversively through genre films in which characters find their loyalties split. And what better way to reflect Korea’s pain than by presenting us with a mother who finds herself pulled in two different directions. In Pieta, director Kim Ki-Duk gives us the brutal loan shark Kang-do whose life’s disrupted when a strange woman arrives at his door, and then forces her way in and starts doing his dishes.

CLIP SFX cleaning dishes

Kang-do tries to get rid of the woman but she claims to be the mother who abandoned him at birth.

CLIP calls his name

Kang-do had resigned himself to being a loner with no family so the sudden appearance of a mother proves a seismic shift in his life. As the story plays out, the characters’ emotions and our own become violently conflicted as Kim presents us with a world where nothing’s black and white, only troubling shades of gray. Kim’s a master at delivering grueling dramas that lead us in one direction only to abruptly jerk us in another. His films are superbly crafted and layered with social commentary not only about the strains of a nation split in two but also about a country that’s leaving some of its people out of its economic progress.

Pieta is a riveting, emotionally agonizing, yet artistically exhilarating film.

Beth Accomando, KPBS News.