poetry 시 (shi)




Every once in a while, a movie grips me by the heart and breaks it just so, then heals it at the same time, leaving an impression so deep that I am changed by it.  This is the case of Poetry, a small South Korean film written and directed by Lee Chang-Dong. I came out of the cinema feeling a little dazed, both from the emotions stirred by the movie and adjusting my eyes to the blinding late afternoon light. I can't even remember much of my drive back home.

The story centers around Mija, a woman in her sixties who attempts to write poetry for the first time. She is raising her teenage grandson alone on a meager income, relying on government subsidy and working as a part-time caregiver for an elderly man who has had a stroke. Her mundane life is interrupted when she finds out that her grandson is involved in a serious crime and at the same time she is diagnosed with early dementia. What starts as a simple whim to enroll in a poetry class soon becomes the glue that holds her life together as she struggles with her memory loss and the harsh realities of being a poor woman in a male-dominated society.

Although this may seem like a recipe for melodrama, the film is anything but. It is very subtle, the music is almost muted and the dialogue is sparse. The story itself unfolds like a visual poetry, it shows rather than tells, inviting the audience to arrive at their own personal interpretation with so little words.

Even the suffering is beautiful.

I wrote this on a piece of paper while watching the film. It must have been a line by one of the characters but I also find that it rings true, both in poetry and in life. This is what makes the movie special. It never attempts to simplify or romanticize pain and suffering but rather it shows it like it is. And by doing so, transcends it so beautifully.

P.S. The movie is currently playing in select theaters in the U.S. You can watch the international trailer here. I really hope you guys can see it!


  1. oh yes, one of the most beautiful films around, these days :)

  2. sofia, i'm so glad you agree and loved it too! :)

  3. i have been wanting to see this for some time now! I missed it during the Toronto film festival- sigh...

    On another note, just wanted to say I`ve been a long time reader of your lovely blog and I just simply adore the way you write :)

    Ps. I was wondering if you`ve ever seen `Cairo Time` (starring Patricia Clarkson and Alexander Siddig)? It`s one the most beautiful movies I`ve ever seen- it just touched me the way no other movie has!- and I think you would really like it!

  4. ooh great review!
    it sounds interesting :-)

  5. ivy, thank you. you are so sweet! i'm so glad you introduced yourself and dropped by a note. haven't seen "cairo time" yet, but will definitely add that to my netflix list. thanks a lot for the recommendation! and hope to hear from you more on the future. :)

  6. aron, thanks! and yes..i really hope you can watch this movie. :)

  7. Odessa, I watched this on a plane to Seoul and I have to agree that this movie is one of the best things around. I thought the title spoke volumes not because I am an aspiring poet, but because the story itself is poetry. It had its cadence, rhyme and depth. very good movie choice!

    have u seen Wedding Dress? Now that one will make u cry buckets, loads of tissue recommended.

  8. dot, thanks for visiting! :)
    nope, haven't seen "Wedding Dress" but will add that to my list. i'm on a Jap and Korean movies mode these days.