Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Lee Chang-dong|
|Produced by||Lee Joon-dong|
|Written by||Lee Chang-dong|
|Editing by||Kim Hyun|
|Studio||Pine House Film|
|Release date(s)||13 May 2010|
|Running time||139 minutes|
|Gross revenue||1.3 billion won|
Poetry (Korean: 시; translit. Shi) is a 2010 South Korean drama film written and directed by Lee Chang-dong. It tells the story of a suburban woman in her 60s who begins to grow an interest for poetry while struggling with Alzheimer's disease and her irresponsible grandson. Yoon Jeong-hee stars in the leading role, her first role in a film since 1994. The film was selected for the main competition at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival where it won the Best Screenplay Award.
The idea for the film had its origin in a true case where a small town schoolgirl had been raped by a gang of teenage boys. When Lee Chang-dong heard about the incident it made an impact on him, although he was never interested in basing a film on the actual events. Later, during a visit in Japan, Lee saw a television program on his hotel room, 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."
Lee wrote the lead character specifically for Yoon Jeong-hee, a major star of Korean cinema from the 1960s and 1970s. Yoon has expressed satisfaction with how the role differs from what she typically played in the past: "I’ve always had the desire to show people different aspects of my acting and (Lee) provided me with every opportunity to do just that." Prior to Poetry, the last film Yoon appeared in was Manmubang from 1994. Production was led by Pine House Film, founded in 2005 by the director, with co-production support from UniKorea Culture & Art Investment.
Filming started 25 August 2009 and ended three months later in the provinces Gyeonggi-do and Gangwon. Lee was initially worried that Yoon's long experience might have bound her to an outdated acting style, but was very pleased with her attitude: "she performed her scenes with a willingness to discuss and this is something that’s difficult to find even in younger actors."
On 13 May 2010, N.E.W. released Poetry in 194 South Korean theaters with a gross revenue corresponding to around 258,000 US dollars during the first weekend. As of 6 June 2010, Box Office Mojo reported a total revenue of 1,116,285 dollars (1,340,725,262 won) in the film's domestic market. The international premiere took place at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival, where Poetry was screened on 19 May as part of the main competition. It will be distributed in the United States by Kino International.
"Given the abundant potential for missteps into sappiness with this sort of premise", Justin Chang wrote in Variety, "what's notable here is the lack of sentimentality in Lee's approach. At no point does Poetry devolve into a terminal-illness melodrama or a tale of intergenerational bonding". Chang continued by noting how Lee's background as a novelist sometimes shows through, and that "[t]here are longueurs here [...] that could be trimmed, though overall this absorbing film feels considerably shorter than its 139 minutes."