Venice winner "Pieta" director a soft-spoken "monster"

Tue Oct 23, 2012 11:52am EDT
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By Jane Chung

YANGPYEONG, South Korea (Reuters) - The near-death of an actress in an accident while filming nearly ended director Kim Ki-duk's career four years ago, but after making "Pieta," which took best picture at this year's Venice film festival, he is now South Korea's most feted auteur.

The incident, in which an actress playing a character who hanged herself fainted with the rope around her neck and was cut down by Kim himself, shook Kim so badly it changed his views on mortality.

Hit with a subsequent wave of staff departures, he retreated from the world to live in a rough wooden shack he built himself about an hour outside of Seoul.

"For the past two to three years, I believed there was no value in my life any more and did not make any movies," said the soft-spoken 52-year old, his hair tied back and wearing shabby chestnut-colored Korean traditional clothes.

"I hated everything. Then I thought life was way too long," Kim said of his self-imposed exile.

But the working-class Kim, who has been tagged by some feminist critics as "all evil, no good," a misogynist or even a psychopath, picked himself up to make "Arirang" in 2011 and then the ultra-violent "Pieta."

"Pieta" depicts the relationship between a heartless loan shark and a middle-aged woman who says she is his mother. Although critics say it is less brutal than many of Kim's other films it still features mutilation, sexual violence and cannibalism as the loan shark feeds the woman his own flesh and rapes her.

The movie, which Kim said he made as a comment on capitalism in Korea, scooped the Golden Lion award at Venice, where one critic termed it "intense."   Continued...

South Korean director Kim Ki-duk kisses the Golden Lion prize for best movie "Pieta" at the 69th Venice Film Festival in Venice September 8, 2012. REUTERS/Tony Gentile