‘Poetry’, a moving South Korean film that studies conflicting human emotions, has been awarded top prize at the 25th Fribourg International Film Festival in Switzerland. The movie, which was written by South Korea’s former cultural minister Lee Chang-dong, studies the effects of rape, guilt, passion, anger, dementia and a growing awareness of creativity. The story is based around one 66 year old lady named Mija who lives with her grandson who suddenly develops a need to write poetry.
Having received rave reviews in South Korea and amongst foreign audiences, ‘Poetry’ is Chang-dong Lee’s fifth feature film and has also won an award from the International Federation of the Cinematographic Press as well as best screenplay award at the Cannes Film Festival of 2010. The film is certainly one for audiences who like to see the complexities of life laid bare and will most certainly appeal to international movie buffs who enjoy East Asian cinema. For poets, it is a must-see.
Mija, the central character, is a strong woman who faces one hardship after another. She knows her grandson is guilty of a terrible gang-rape of a young teenage girl who later commits suicide. Her angst is further intensified by the way the boys fathers cover-up the crime. Her strained relationship with her grandson, who is addicted to modern technology, as well as her battle with encroaching dementia, all seem to point to a woman on the edge of breaking.
That is until she discovers the magic of poetry and enrols herself onto a course to better understand how to compose a poem. The catalyst for this is a long forgotten memory from her childhood when a teacher told her she had a gift for writing verse. Some of the most beautiful and poignant scenes in the film take place in the poetry class where discussions on poetry and life are seen and heard. For poets watching this film, many wonderful lessons and ways of viewing the world and poetry writing will be gained. It is a reflective salute to the art of poetry from South Korea.
It was released in the United States on 11 February 2011.