Directed by: Chang-dong Lee
Written by: Chang-dong Lee
Starring: Jeong-hie Yun, Da-wit Lee and Hira Kim
At Mi Ja Yang’s (Jeong) first poetry class, her teacher states that writing poetry begins with “seeing” – observing the world around you as though you are seeing and experiencing it for the first time. As a result, the poet is able to see beauty in all things, and create something that communicates deeply felt thoughts and emotions. Chang-dong Lee applies this wisdom to his film, Poetry – using filmic techniques we’ve seen a thousand times, but showing it to us in a way that we have never seen before.
Mi Ja is a grandmother, a paid carer for a stroke victim, and a poet (even if she doesn’t think so herself). When she sees an advertisement for a poetry class displayed outside the local cultural center, Mi Ja jumps at the opportunity to try something new. But as the classes progress and Mi Ja’s interest in poetry deepens, she begins to experience changes that are a lot more significant than she could ever have imagined, perceiving the world around her with more depth and finding the courage to act on the troubles that surround her family, even though she is on the brink of Alzheimer’s disease.
Great poetry doesn’t simply waffle. It doesn’t simply mash abstract words together, and the poet can’t selfishly enjoy the sound of his voice while it means nothing to his listeners. A great film follows the same idea, and Poetryis highly aware of such pitfalls. With a compelling story and character that consistently stands as the backbone of the entire film, writer-director Lee doesn’t allow his film to be vague about its direction and intended impact. Giving just the right amount of information, and being highly economical about its dialogue, Poetryleaves enough room for the audience to navigate their own interpretations through Mi Ja’s journey, whilst never being left confused or distanced from the intriguing old woman and her experiences.
Powerful, thoughtful and poetic in its own treatment of story, Poetry deserves to be heard.