I rarely write about films, unless it elicits some strong emotions. This one does. And the strong emotion I mean is, in this case, disgust. Well, I should start with the fact that the film isn't convincing, or more precisely, the character development isn't- for such a man, violent, hateful, cold-hearted, inhumane and even animalistic, the change in him is too quick and abrupt. If his personality, behaviour and view of life are caused by his feeling of abandonment, caused by a loveless childhood, I don't think he might easily, quickly, naively believe and fall into the trap- it should take more time for him to change and to adapt and to be willing to sacrifice for his mother. I take from my own personal life and experience to say that it needs time, lots of time, for a parent and a child who have been separated for a long while to have some real feelings. His transformation is also too brief, one finds it hard to believe it's the same person from the beginning to the end, especially the scene where they go out on the street and he acts like a little kid- it's unconvincing. As it can't take place over a long period of time, my suggestion is that before the woman appears, there should be some small details suggesting the cruel man has different shades, has some other side showing that he has the potential to be touched and become good.
Near the end of the film, after he digs up the corpse and knows who the woman really is, why does he still lie next to her?
Besides, the meant-to-be-plot-twist turns the film into a conventional South Korean revenge film. Compared to his "Spring, summer, fall, winter... and spring", a masterpiece- extraordinarily beautiful, meditative, serene, poetic and spiritual, this film by Kim Ki Duk is a huge disappointment.
However, what bothers me the most is how disgusting it actually is. It's a disgusting film, with disgusting depiction of Koreans, all the people in it are disgusting, their emotions are disgusting, their relationships are disgusting, their behaviours and actions are disgusting. "Pietà" begins with a suicide- a young man kills himself using some mechanical thing that lifts him up from his wheelchair and chokes him, and a masturbation, followed by lots of sickening scenes involving violence or sex or both. At the scene where he rapes his own mother, 2 women sitting behind me walked out. Not only is the film as a whole unpleasant and distasteful, but there's no character, I repeat, there's no character in the whole film that has some kind of humanity in them.
After watching, I don't see the point. The depiction of violence, cruelty, inhumanity, hatred, revenge... is acceptable, what really matters is what it is for, what the filmmaker wants to tell us, what the film leaves us in the end, how it affects us, how it makes us feel... I can't sympathise with the mother, can't accept her actions even with such motives. I don't feel sorry and sad for that 30-year-old man. I neither like nor understand any of the characters, at the same time I don't feel that I really hate them- all there is is a feeling of immense disgust like something that makes me uneasy in the stomach, something that gets stuck there in my throat, something that makes me want to throw up, which is to say, the film doesn't really depress me and sadden me, doesn't touch me, move me, it doesn't really make me angry, either, all I feel is disgust, mere disgust and pure disgust. It's not 1 of those films that portray violence to really tell something and make one feel something, it's not 1 of those films that touch you, move you, make you sad and sympathise with or at least understand the characters, it's not 1 of those films that teach you about life or human nature or humanity and enrich your soul.
I don't know what it's made for.
PS- updated on 26/11: Personally the most disturbing scene, for me, is not 1 of those violent, bloody, brutal ones, but the one where the young guy says he's about to have a baby and willing to sacrifice both of his hands to get 60000, especially when he adds, any parent would do the same. What he says, plus the look on his face, nauseates me- I don't know how to explain it but the theme is just so clear and blatant the film becomes sort of cheap and vulgar, if you get what I mean.