Korean filmmaker Kim Ki-Duk is widely known for his shifts in tone between films, with each of his movies being extremely different from the previous ones. Ranging from 2000’s THE ISLE, a violent film featuring some pretty intense images, to the 2005 romantic drama THE BOW, Ki-Duk has created a name for himself as a filmmaker who isn’t afraid to break out of what he’s known for.
His most recent film, PIETA (review soon), is an intense look at a character’s lack of humanity and love for money, as he responds violently to others and even finding himself along the way. If you’re a fan of Korean revenge films or just amazing foreign films in general, you should definitely check it out, it’s pretty awesome. We were lucky enough to chat with Ki-Duk recently, and he had some interesting things to say. Read on!!
What was the genesis of PIETA?
It is the amalgam of all the violence I have been exposed to throughout my life; violence by my father, violence by police, violence by society, and violence of the military. Every time I was victimized by such violence, I thought of each inflictor’s mother.
The character of Lee goes through somewhat of a transformation in the film, starting out as a completely cold and emotionless individual and by the end of the film, as shocking as what leads him to it, he finds his humanity in a way. Was that an important element to you, to take viewers on a journey of someone finding their humanity?
Kang-do is a man-child and does everything he is told. When this so-called mother shows up, he strongly denies her, harshly tests her, and then eventually accepts her as his long-lost mother. This embrace changes him. I believe that many people in our time are waiting for truth. A society revolving around money is cruel and heartless and it is difficult to find truth in such a setting, leaving its members feeling cold. I wanted to thaw the frozen heart of Kang-do because this could be a cure for this sickening time of ours.
PIETA is your eighteenth film, has the film industry changed a lot during your career and if so, do you feel that it has for the better or the worse?
At the moment, IRONMAN 3 is being shown on about 1,200 screens all over Korea, which is 60 percent of the country’s entire screen count of 2,000. On the other hand, not a single screen is available for low-budget or independent films, breaking many a filmmakers’ heart. This is the reality. However, nobody says that there is a problem here. PIETA mirrors this insanity in which money is becoming god. IRONMAN 3 cannot save the world gone crazy over money.
You’re widely known to make films that can be extremely different from each other, in tone and even style. Do you as a filmmaker feel that that’s an important thing to do, change things up from film to film?
To talk about the color of white, I think that we should speak about the color of black. Our lives exist when a balanced tension is achieved among sources of equal power. Right now, money and government power favor only one side.
PIETA seems to be well received with American audiences as well as Korean, are you surprised that it seems to be finding its audiences worldwide?
My films began finding audiences outside Korea a long time ago and have become better known abroad. Thanks to the Golden Lion from the Venice Film Festival in September, more people in Korea went to see PIETA. Typically, a number of Korean films attract 10 million viewers and the average film is seen by millions. So far approximately 600,000 in Korea have seen PIETA, which is only 6 percent of the attendance of a regular hit film. Still, I am very grateful.
What’s next for you?
The production of my new film MOBIUS is complete and it is now in post-production. It is quite a shocking story of this family. This film might not be allowed to be released in Korea due to some ethical issues. I am hoping that won’t be the case.
PIETA is out in Los Angeles theaters beginning May 17th and is available on iTunes and VOD now via DRAFTHOUSE FILMS.