‘Pieta’ is no prize, despite Golden Lion
I’m pretty gullible, especially when it comes to movies. I watch movies that other people recommend. When someone tells me, “that movie was worth watching,” I have to see it to believe it. So I have wasted a great deal of time and money on worthless movies. That’s why I also read movie reviews to prevent disappointment. In fact, the reviews written by film critics are not completely reliable. I have found some movies that had gotten great reviews to be disappointing. For an amateur film lover like me, finding a good movie is a challenge.
How great is Kim Ki-duk’s “Pieta” to have received the Golden Lion for Best Film at the Venice Film Festival, one of the three most prestigious festivals in the world? I went to watch “Pieta” out of curiosity. I could get a ticket to a late showing, and after watching it, one thing became certain. Critics have different criteria about films than I do.
I have to confess that watching “Pieta” was stressful. The intensity of cruelty and brutality has been softened compared to Kim’s previous films, but “Pieta” still had his signature style of violence. Cold-blooded mercilessness may be the nature of capitalism, but does he have to represent it by showing blood, cutting off flesh and breaking bones? My wife constantly turned her face away from the screen. She was so uncomfortable that we almost left halfway through the movie.
Since winning the award, “Pieta” is attracting more viewers. However, the film is not likely to be a box office hit. Aside from the structural problem of a domestic film market centered on blockbusters, the movie itself is far from popular taste.
The Korean film industry is enjoying a renaissance. In the first half of 2012, 44.17 million tickets were sold for Korean movies, which is a record. The number of viewers increased by 34 percent compared to the same period last year. Seven movies drew four million or more at the box office. To my surprise, the total audience for “Thieves” is about to reach 13 million. Kim argues that monopolizing the vertically affiliated movie theaters and getting 10 million viewers is meaningless.
In the capitalist theory of moneymaking, the film industry is not an exception. Conglomerates have extensive control over investment and distribution and exert great influence. But before criticizing the structure, Kim needs to make more efforts to get closer to the general audience. He still has a long way to go from “Pieta.” Conglomerates and audiences need to pay more attention to low-budget independent movies, but the auteur filmmakers should work harder to communicate with the audience. Only then can a variety of films coexist. What good is a movie without the audience? More films with character, artistic value and popular appeal should be made. Then, amateur film lovers like me would not grumble as much after watching a movie.
* The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Bae Myung-bok