For Reel

Poetry (2010)
January 8, 2012, 7:13 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Lee Chang-dong

Like Secret Sunshine, Lee Chang-dong’s previous effort about a grieving widow, Poetry is a film about coping mechanisms. What is remarkable about Chang-dong as a filmmaker is the organic way in which his narratives unfold – at every step of the way they are unpredictable, and it is within the rash actions of his characters that their mental states are revealed. In Poetry, Mija’s method of coping – both in dealing with her worsening Alzheimer’s and the terrible tragedy for which her grandson is responsible – is in her passion for poetry, a means in which she can transcend that which burdens her. Just as much as this is a film about coping, it is a film about gender. None of the men in the picture seem to suffer in the same way that Mija does, let alone share her emotional complexities. Take, for instance, the community of fathers who, after arriving at a settlement with the victim’s mother, feel unabashedly redeemed. The poetry readings also reveal a romanticism inherent to women whereas the masculine voice establishes itself as more practical and sexually-driven. Though not every man in the film is wrought in this way, it becomes clear that Mija’s tragedy is very much instigated by the relationship that she has with the men in her life, who are often cruel, thoughtless, and demoralizing.


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