Today: April 17, 2024

Poetry DVD

By Misha Wallace – Lee Chang-Dong directs this Korean tragedy about the life and memories of one woman.

By – Misha Wallace

Lee Chang-Dong directs this Korean tragedy about the life and memories
of one woman.

Yun Jung-Hie is
Mija, a woman in her 60s who lives in a modest suburb with her schoolboy
grandson and works as a part-time carer.
After discovering that she is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease,
she is also faced with the grim revelation that her grandson has played a part
in the rape and suicide of a schoolgirl.
She recalls a childhood dream she once had – to become a poet and enrols
in poetry classes to find strength and reasoning in the midst of these harsh
realities.

When Mija joins her poetry class, she is given the task of
writing her very first poem.
Throughout the film, she struggles to find inspiration, but eventually
finds it in an unlikely source – herself – her life, her memories and her
womanhood. Mija is a captivating
character and Yun Jung-Hie gives her
real warmth and credibility. Although
Mija has a small and almost insignificant life, she wants to be noticed. She is quirky, wise and smart, wearing colourful,
feminine clothes to stand out from the crowd. We follow Mija as she scribbles words of inspiration in a
note pad and it is these little notes that are the subtle markers of the story. The film does have a slow pace but this
really serves as an indication of the pace of Mija’s day to day life. While Mija is the backbone of the
story, Poetry has a wonderful supporting cast with Lee Da-Wit as Mija’s lazy, apathetic grandson and Ahn Nae-Sang as the father of one of
the other boys.

Seeing Mija cope with the fact that she will soon forget
herself, as well as the burden of her grandson’s acts may seem like a little
too much to follow. However, the
film does actually use both events well in showing us what triggers one woman
to try to make sense of her life.
Mija is forgetting words yet she is also trying to record them as she
tries to write her poem. Although
we never see the heinous crime that Mija’s grandson has been involved in, it provides
a grim thread to the story. We see
the fathers of the boys involved come together to arrange financial
compensation for the victim’s mother to clear their sons’ names, with no
thought or feeling for the girl’s suffering. The scenes of Mija reluctantly sitting at a table, timid and
despondent, with these wealthier and powerful men jovially lunching around her serves
well in isolating Mija as the only character with discernible empathy. She recalls how she felt as a child and
begins to form a sympathetic bond with the dead girl.

The concept of poetry and finding the beauty in things is
central to this film. Mija’s
poetry teacher himself states that ‘Writing poetry is about discovering true
beauty.’ In a sense, Mija uses
poetry as escapism. When she
initially finds out about the heinous crime of her grandson, she scarpers from
the building and begins to examine flowers outside, taking notes. Mija is consistently ignored by the
people in her life, in particular her grandson and her daughter, who is only in
contact with her mother and son through telephone. It seems that everyone around her is void of emotion, yet
Mija herself has enough empathy for everyone. Poetry gives her something to identify with and gives her a
sense of the love that she cannot find in others.

A tragic and poignant
reflection on life, death and memories with a stunning conclusion, Poetry is a
beautiful film.

Misha Wallace - Social Media Editor

From the age of 4, Misha Wallace became transfixed by movies like Halloween and The Birds from behind the couch, unbeknownst to her family. This has developed in to an obsession with fantasy and horror films (and a considerable number of cheesy 80s and 90s flicks – but she will not be judged). If she was a character in a film she'd be the girl at the end of a horror movie, doused in blood but grinning victorious. Email: misha.wallace@filmjuice.com or find her any time of the day or night on FilmJuice social media.

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