Friday, April 8, 2011


Poetry (시)


If you look carefully at an apple, or life, you will find the inspiration for writing a poetry, and perhaps discover more about everything surrounding you that you might have overlooked. That is what is taught in a poetry class in acclaimed Korean writer/director Lee Chang-dong's new film "Poetry" (시 | South Korea 2010 | in Korean | 139 min.). Actually, it might be a message that Lee wants to convey through this poignant yet poetic film. The film is awarded Best Screenplay Award at last year's Cannes Film Festival.

Beautiful and elegant 66-year-old Mija (Yun Jeong-Hee) raises her grandson Wook (Lee Da-wit) alone while working as a maid caring elderly Kang (Kim Hui-Ra) who is paralyzed from a stroke. After she finds out that she begins to show signs of Alzheimer's, she decides to take a poetry class and try to write poetry, because she believes that she has "a poet's vein." Meanwhile, she discovers that Wook and his friends are to blame for a local middle school girl's suicide. Shocked by the news and happenings around her, she focuses on her unique angle to "see things" in order to sense her poetic inspiration and to find the ground of her moral standing. Ultimately, the poem she writes is her vision how she sees life and her solution to the people and violence in the society.

Yun Jung-hee in Poetry

In "Poetry," like in Lee Chang-dong's other films such as "Secret Sunshine" and "Oasis," Lee is exceptionally skillful at infusing social commentaries into his unforgettable stories. His complex characters are always unique and memorable, although often heartbroken, and consistently played by terrific actresses. In this film, his protagonist Mija is remarkably played by veteran Yun Jeong-Hee, who has been absent from the silver screen for the 16 years before taking on this role. She seamlessly transforms her character from Lee's creation to the big screen.

This film, about a woman who writes poetry, is a poem itself. It expresses the feelings of both the characters and filmmaker, perhaps it will also inspire the audience to see the world differently. That is the power of poetry.

"Poetry," a Kino International release, opens on Friday, April 8, 2011 at Bay Area theaters.

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