South Korean director Kim Ki-duk brought his brand of excruciating emotion and troubling imagery to the Venice film festival on Tuesday with his new grim condemnation of capitalism "Pieta".
The film revolves around the figure of a brutal loan shark played by Korean tough guy actor Lee Jung-jin who prowls the back alleys and workshops of a downtown district of Seoul that is quickly being replaced by skyscrapers.
Lee's character is often compared to an infernal creature by his victims and he enforces a grim Faustian pact -- hobbling the artisans who cannot pay their debts in order to cash in on the insurance they have been forced to take out.
One day a woman claiming to be his mother walks into his life and he tries to change his ways in an emotional crescendo until an ending in which audiences are left wondering whether there can ever be redemption for someone like him.
"Money inevitably puts people to the test in a capitalist society and people today are obsessed with a fantasy that money can solve anything," Kim said.
Kim has won awards at the Berlin and Venice film festivals and is known for shooting quickly and on low budgets. This is his 18th feature film.
"Pieta" is one of 18 movies vying for this year's Golden Lion prize, which will be announced on Saturday.