“The most difficult thing for me is being ready to write poetry.” I couldn’t get these words from the main character out of my mind and, for a time, it prevented me from writing this review.
This is because I doubted whether I was mature enough to face the film Poetry. “What does it mean to make a film now, when films are dying?” asks Lee Chang-dong, the director, who made this film while he was asking himself the meaning of making films and writing poetry. He asks his audience the same question.
In the film, a middle-aged woman named Mija is raising her teenage grandson while his mother is working in Pusan. Mija concerns herself with her looks and often surprises others with her unpredictable behaviors, acting just like a little girl.
The story starts when a doctor tells Mija that she is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. At the same time, the truth of a tragic incident is revealed to her. She happens upon a poetry workshop and enrolls. There she learns that “what is essential in life is looking; it’s all about looking at the world.” She begins trying to find “authentic beauty” in what she sees in her daily life, looking at an apple in the kitchen from various angles, taking a flower by the roadside in her hand, looking from a bench up to leaves blown in the wind. In time, “looking” forces Mija to reflect upon herself and to be ready to write poetry. If Mija represents Lee and the question he has for his audience, what kind of poetry, or words, will we write to express our own answers?
The story develops without major events as it thoroughly eliminates “verbal” explanations and suppresses intense human emotions of human being. With Lee’s impressive direction, only the expressive face of Yun Junghee (as Mija) tells the story, when she leaves her grandson after playing badminton, or when she is wooed as if she were a young woman. As we watch the film, we forget about thinking or crying; we do nothing but “look.”
While she is losing her memories and words little by little, Mija identifies herself with a girl victimized by a tragic incident. Overwhelmed by her overflowing emotions, Mija finally completes her “poetry.” I expect that her poetry will touch the hearts of you readers.
At the beginning and the end of the film, there are scenes where a river flows smoothly, implying life and death. If you realize the river, represents something completely different in each scene, even though it looks the same, perhaps it means that you have found an answer to Lee’s question.
(Kei Shimizu, a junior studying film at the art department of Nihon University)
(Lee Chang-dong, South Korea, 2010, 139min., distributed by SIGLO/ Kino Eye Japan)
Released on Feb 11 at Ginza Theatre Cinema, Shinjuku Musashino-kan, etc.
(C)2010 UniKorea Culture & Art Investment Co. Ltd. and PINEHOUSE FILM.
Visit the official website: http://poetry-shi.jp/
Original article: http://wan.or.jp/reading/?p=6038
Translated by N. Tajima