The idea for the film had its origin in a real-life case where a small town schoolgirl had been raped by a gang of teenage boys. When director Chang-dong Lee heard about the incident, it made an impact on him, although he hadn't been interested in basing a film on the actual events. Later, during a visit in Japan, Lee saw a television program in his hotel room. The program was edited entirely from relaxing shots of nature, "a peaceful river, birds flying, fishermen on the sea with soft new-age music in the background," and a vision for a possible feature film started to form. "Suddenly, it reminded me of that horrible incident, and the word 'poetry' and the image of a 60-year old woman came up in my mind. See more »
There's an outstanding outward composure pervading this movie, to the point that it seems impossible not to feel in the end a sense of calm, although the cruelty of some situations. This is probably a typical feature of all oriental pictures and culture as well, but here it is most evident, almost therapeutic. The protagonist is a small, meek, cheerfully dressed, sixty-something woman, in the early stages of Alzheimer's, who has to look after her troublesome grandson, dramatically connected with a shocking event in the small Korean city where they live. It's a slow movie, which leaves ample scope to the unsaid and the unwritten, but dripping with strong and deep humanity. Mija reveals such determination in her simple and peaceful going on, holding on, she proves the real strength of real strong people, that strength that does not need any evident outward demonstrations, but only the inner will of a meek nature who continues to see the beauty of a flower or the perfection of an apple, and the beauty of poetry, of course, against the ugliness of men (and here the ugliness of a male chauvinist society is to be underlined). The movie reveals such delicacy, such subtlety and tact while approaching the most disturbing topics, that we as viewers can manage everything, feeling a kind of respect towards us, and feeling also grateful for that. Great work by the director Lee Chang-dong then, and standing ovation for Yun Jung-hee for her intense, poignant, stunning interpretation of Mija. The last shots on her finally achieved poem are petrifying and soothing at the same time, showing an incredible emotional intensity. These are movies that should reach the big screen more often and more widely.
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