Winner, Golden Lion, Venice Film Festival

Korean festival favourite Kim Ki-duk is back in fighting form in Pietà, an intense and, for the first hour, sickeningly violent film that unexpectedly segues into a moving psychological study.

Blank-faced young Kang-do (Jeong-jin Lee) is the collector for a loan shark; his method is to make his victims sign an insurance policy that guarantees them money should they become disabled at work. When they don’t make their payments, Kang-do chops off their hands or crushes them in machines, or throws them off empty buildings to cripple them and collect the insurance money.

One day, out of the blue, a woman professing to be his mother turns up on his doorstep. Kang-do, who has never known tenderness in his life, falls under his mother’s spell and she becomes the most important thing in the world for him. When the big twist finally comes, this bleak downer of a film suddenly turns to poetry; a painful, melancholic ode to the human condition, clinched by a mournful final song.

Deborah Young, The Hollywood Reporter