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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

POETRY (SHI)

By D.E.Levine

2010 NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL SELECTION

Director: Chang-dong Lee
Writer: Chang-dong Lee
Cast: Jeong-Hee Yoon, Nae-sang Ahn, Da-wit Lee, Yong-taek Kim, Hira Kim et al.
Producer: Jun-dong Lee
Running Time: 139 Minutes
Country of Origin: South Korea
Language: Korean with English subtitles
Genre: Drama

Poetry is a very sobering philosophical film. It's also very beautiful and thoughtful.

Mija works as a maid to a disabled elderly man several days a week and cares for her deadbeat ungrateful teenage grandson.

Plagued by constantly forgetting simple words such as "wallet", Mija is in her sixties and senses something is wrong with her, which precipitates her visit to the hospital for tests.

Seeing an advertisement for a poetry class at the local community center, Mija registers and takes her teacher's advice to observe, take notes and write poetry very seriously.

Along the way five fathers of her grandsons friends visit her and report that the six boys were involved in raping a farm girl who later committed suicide.

The fathers decide to pay the girl's mother a settlement of 30 million won, split six ways, so that the family won't sue the school or ruin the six boys' lives.

Mija gets up and leaves the meeting, not just because of the difficulty raising the money but also because she's not convinced that paying a settlement is the right thing to do. Throughout the film she seems to question making the payment.

Mija, on her modest income is unable to come up with her share of the money (5 million won) and tries a variety of people and techniques in order to raise it.

Mija undergoes a great deal of pain and hurt and endures things that are demoralizing and degrading. In the end she learns that loving her grandson doesn't mean she has to protect him from the punishment he deserves.

Director Lee Chang-dong's message is really about how language of your own creation can liberate you, even in the situation where you live in a society where there is institutionalized male aggression.