Kim Ki-duk’s ARIRANG was an official selection at AFI FEST 2011 and he was a guest of AFI FEST in 2012, where he presented his new film PIETA. We caught up with him in anticipation of the film’s theatrical release this month.
Your last film, ARIRANG was a documentary about how you dealt with the guilt from an incident in your life, and PIETA, similarly, deals with characters who are seeking redemption for acts that they have committed in the past. Did making this film feel like a cathartic experience for you?
I think that ARIRANG was a film about how people lose their faith in a money-centric society. No matter how good a relationship you may have with your fellow man when faced with the prospect of fame or money, even deep relationships can become quite fragile. PIETA also raises this question of how human relationships can be cruelly affected by the involvement of money. PIETA was not an act of catharsis. I did not make a vindictive movie to force people to repent their actions. It’s just a shame that we are living in an era where money is destroying human values.
What made you want to frame this story in such a religious sense? Why did you title it PIETA?
I think religion in the lives of human beings stems from the fervent prayer of those suffering from events outside of their control. I think we can see the Catholic “Pieta” for many people associated with the intense image of the Virgin Mary in times of sadness or suffering. I felt his image of “Pieta” sadly looking out over the heartless money-centric modern society was perfect for the PIETA movie concept.
The maternal relationship in this film is unconventional to say the least, can you talk about some of the other mother-son relationships that you’ve explored in your other films?
This is certainly not the first time I’ve explored mother-son relationships in this way in my movies. My first film ADDRESS UNKNOWN was a story about the relationship between a mixed-race son of a U.S. soldier and his Korean mother. In Korean society what is called “motherhood” is a mother’s love. For Korean people, especially Korean sons, this love is the driving force in their lives. I wanted to face the reality of the violence perpetrated on the mother as a hostage of the events happening to her sons, I hoped to show this in PIETA.
Do you think its harder or easier to get films made that include graphic violence?
This is not the case. Violence is easy. You can shock both the physical and mental aspects of someone. I think violence can be personal between individuals, or larger groups, or entire populations, or even between countries. Currently, the most dreadful violence that can be perpetrated is war. Even now, the aura, the potential, of war still hangs across the Korean peninsula. Even now North Korea and the United States continue to puff themselves up with Nationalistic pride and fight with each other. Why don’t the leaders of both Nations just meet with each other? I don’t know. I hope they can abandon their egos long enough to meet and listen to each others point of view. Perhaps, even though human beings are aware that reconciliation is that simple, we enjoy the tension and violence.
What will you be working on next?
Now I’m in the midst of shooting the second half of my film MOBIUS If possible, I’d like to make it a movie that overcomes the tensions between the United States and North Korea.