As a lover of World Cinema and having had a few poems of my own published here and there, South Korea's 'Poetry' was always going to be a double treat for me.
The film's beauty is that it's not just about poetry but how that it can fit into everyday lives and help folk the see the inner beauty that it brings. Mija (an excellent Jeong-he Yun) a 66 year old woman, suffering the onset of Alzheimers, sees the simple beauty in an apple and of fallen apricots on the ground.
She gets this after starting poetry classes and whilst she fails to get her 'poetic awakening', she sets herself the target of writing just one poem.
Considering that this gentle, graceful lady is bringing up a teenage grandson who has committed a serious crime and as a job cares part-time for an elderly stroke victim these poetical leanings are a soothing diversion for both us - and her. (She's not bad at badminton, either!) It's actually the way the film contrasts several issues, the modern contemporary ones that give the film its backbone, the age difference clashes with the grandson and the lyrical - but unsentimental - softer side and you get a modest and modern masterpiece.
Avoid if only Iron Man 2 can move you. But if you have a heart, one where a soul and emotion can flourish and you enjoy a well acted, straightforward modern film - wherever in the world that it might come from - then 'Poetry' has a wide and worthwhile appeal.
on 8 April 2015
It's never too late to feel and experience beauty in this beautiful world of ours. This is one of the things this sensitive and perceptive South Korean film wants to tell us.
Mija is a widow in her mid-60s. She is saddled with the spoiled, disaffected, apathetic teenage son of her errant divorced daughter who is off living elsewhere with a boyfriend. The mother of the boy is barely around so he's used to taking advantage of his overly indulgent grandmother. The boy, perhaps 14 or 15, lies around the house, plays video games, doesn't do his homework, stuffs his face with anything edible in the kitchen, and bad mouths his grandmother to her face. In return she loves and pampers him out of guilt for his missing mother, her daughter. A boy this lazy, selfish, spoiled, ungrateful and immature is bound to get into trouble eventually, so we are not surprised when he does. But by the time this happens we are past caring about him and reserve our concern for his grandmother, as this is Mija's story, not his.
She's been feeling unsteady lately: dizzy spells and frequent moments of forgetfulness. It must be nothing, she tells herself encouragingly, but as her short-term memory begins to worsen she is urged to see a doctor about it. She does and the news is not good. After the tests and scans the doctor confirms she's in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, a disease she has never heard of. When told there is no cure as yet, only gradual and inevitable decline, she wonders if its pace can at least be slowed in some way.
We know from the latest neuroscience that the brain is said to have plasticity. The 85 billion neurons that make consciousness and other aspects of thinking possible can be replenished as we age. This is done with the opening of new neural pathways in the brain by stimulating the brain's neurons. In effect we can exercise the brain by assigning it new tasks — new things to learn, problems to solve, challenges to face.
One such task involves reading and writing. What is written is usually open to interpretation. The mind reads, filters information, stores knowledge. This knowledge becomes important, as it is the basis for reflection, interpretation. In effect: Here are the words, these are the concepts, these are some meanings but not all. Now you take over. The writing stops and your thinking begins.
Mija discovers this. She didn't know what poetry was before. Or she knew it but didn't feel it. The words floated past her, evaporated in mists. But now in the poetry class she has entered on her doctor's recommendation she is being asked to feel the words, not read them, or read them so that she can feel them.
The world had always been there and she knew she was part of it. But she got too busy, too preoccupied as people do, and did not see it well. She knew there were leaves on trees, for instance, but she never paused to look at them closely. She didn't know or notice that their designs, shapes, colors and textures were so varied, beautiful, fantastic. Now she sees what she didn't before. Now the task, her poetry teacher has told the class, is to show what this feels like. Find the essence of a word that matches the essence of the feeling. Have sympathy, regard, even compassion for what you see. Find what is valuable in it by letting what is valuable in you illuminate it. This is poetry, she is told. Out of the essence of the thing, the word and your being comes poetry.
And so her journey begins. She begins to pause, breathe, look, truly see. And what she sees astounds her. The beauty in everything had been there all along but she hadn't known how to look and see it, and all the other people too in the city were the same; they walked right through it, their minds elsewhere, absorbed in other things.
With this beauty, she discovers, comes joy, appreciation, gratitude. I see the beautiful thing and its beauty transforms me, touches a part of me that has not been touched like this before. Beauty also tells me that I belong, that it exists in the world to deepen and enrich me, to teach me that this is my home, that this earth, this place, is where I was meant to be to experience all that I can. Knowing beauty then becomes a kind of coming home.
These strange ideas come to her slowly, but come they do to teach and comfort her. We watch as the world opens to her like a flower. We see at first that she is embarrassed. The things she has scribbled in her notebook cannot be called poetry. Poetry is what poets make. Who is she to think she is one of them?
But her teacher encourages her and says in effect: Just look. Observe carefully, serenely, acceptingly. Don't think. Just feel what you feel.
And so she does, and without knowing why begins to feel better, lighter, calmer, happier. Her grandson gets into serious trouble, but what can she do? His trouble does not destroy the beauty of the world. Beauty is tough and remains. Besides, we all have our crosses to bear. She has tried for so long with him and her daughter. She can love them still. But meanwhile, while she still exists, she wants to write of beauty and what it means to her. She wants to create — without even realizing she is creating it — poetry.
And, the sweet thing is she does.
Needless to say, this is lovely. The director has given us something beautiful here. He has added to the beauty of the world.
on 25 January 2013
I'd seen 'Amour' earler and altho a fan of Haneke, I found the film depressing, so it was interesting to see how the same theme [the onset of old age and loss] could be worked with so differently.
'Poetry' is a Korean film and the main protoganist, a woman in her 60s, who had clealry been stunning in her youth, now looks after her teenage grandson. His subsequent role in an awful crime tests her love and loyalty and as a response to that and since she'd always loved poetry, she decides to attend a writing class. But she finds her creaivity blocked. Through a series of conversations, experiences and reflections she gradually reaches an acceptance of life as it is, and poepl as they are. In the final scene she has written and is heard reciting her poem. It is dedicated to a young woman.
It is a gentle, subtle and moving film. Highly recommened.
To call a film Poetry risks some disappointment.It's such a big broad term and could be an excuse for rambling, wading through imagery meant to express beauty.The film pits poetry against the ugliness,brutality,pain and anguish of modern life.Mija(Hun Jung-Hee) plays the elderly lady like a little girl on a journey of discovery. Poetry represents things that no one can describe,something that's hard to express.She's begun to forget words( `electricity','wallet','bus terminal'),being in the early stages of Alzheimer's, just as she needs to find them and express herself.She joins a poetry class for 1 month whose aim is to write a poem by its end.She also has a grand-son who with 5 of his school mates has raped a young girl who went on to commit suicide by drowning in a flowing river,seen at the movie's start and at its end.
The old lady lives with her surly grand-son, her daughter is working abroad,she also works for a part-time pittance by nursing a wealthy stroke victim.Mija is inveigled into coming up with her share of the blood-money being raised by the fathers of the teenage boys to give to the peasant mother to prevent further legal action.Mija has her own form of resistance to the poetry group, to men and male groupings,to her Viagra-taking patient, whom she blackmails to get money to pay the hush money.Lee(director)searches for the sources of art and beauty in his meandering film. Mija learns how to appreciate an apple,a fallen apricot,an overaching tree,in order to see them she feels them. Mija's thoughts are haunted by the dead girl.Although she endeavours to observe the world around her,the words she eventually finds to write her poem spring from her empathy with the dead girl,not from her observations. The ensemble cast are all very good with integrated sub-plots.The end is heart-breaking as the poem is delivered to the class and Mija disappears.Lee draws an analogy between film-making and poetry,when both appear to be dying,but people still read and write poems and watch films.