Love is poetry. To fall in love with a person is like understanding a deep, moving poem. Noticing every little detail. To see what the poet shows, to smell what he describes and the urge to taste the intangible. Love, like poems, knows no boundaries. Religions, race, distance not even age can restrict someone from falling in love.
My recommendation this week is Jung Ji-woo’s 2 hour and 9 minutes South Korean film Eungyo (The muse) available on Netflix.
Logline: A reclusive poet of about seventy feels the fire of his youth when a schoolgirl Eungyo enters his life, but his star assistant opposes his romantic gestures towards the teenager.
Warning: Contains nudity.
A Muse or Eungyo is a 2012 South Korean film adaptation of celebrated author Park Bum-shin’s novel Eun-gyo. The film starts Lee Joek-yo (Park Hae-ji) a highly respected and awarded poet of South Korea living a reclusive life in his secluded home, hidden away from the city. He lives by himself. His assistant Seo Ji-woo (Kim Mu-yeol) a star author, whose maiden genre novel becomes a bestseller, visits him and does the cleaning and cooking in his house in between his interviews over the phone. It is established that Seo respects his teacher Lee immensely. Their lives turn upside down when a high school student Eun-gyo (Kim Go-eun) is found sleeping on the elder poet’s porch one afternoon. She is later appointed by Seo for cleaning and dusting, perhaps because Seo doesn’t have enough time for his teacher now and doesn’t want to do the petty house work after all the attention he is receiving from his “fans”.
Seo regrets appointing Eungyo when he learns that she slept over one night at Lee’s house. Although no sexual relationship is established between the poet and the schoolgirl, Seo understands his teacher’s feelings towards her and gets protective towards him and asks him to kick her out. Lee, whose long lost feelings have returned with Eungyo, discards Seo’s request and goes as far as to risk his life to bring back Eungyo’s hand mirror from a steep slope. Seo and Lee meet often as always but Eungyo’s presence irks the young student. A mild competition begins between Seo and Eungyo. Inspired by what Lee feels for Eungyo, he writes a short story about her and his feeling towards her, from Lee’s point of view of how he would have loved Eungyo if he was a young man. He tucks the manuscript in his chest, without any plans to ever publish. It is later learnt that Seo’s novel was ghost written by Lee. Already indebted to the elderly writer, Seo feels jealous of Lee’s work and association with Eungyo. He steals Lee’s short story Eungyo without his knowledge, which gets him the annual literary award. Seo confronts Lee saying Lee would have never published it, like he would have never published the novel, under his respectable name. When Eungyo reads the story, she thanks Seo for making her feel so beautiful, unknown of who wrote the story originally.
The film is shot and executed extremely well, with each frame looking like a painting. The use of seasons as a narrative makes the film look more real. The performances are very good. The edit is not too fast and we can enjoy each scene at its own leisurely pace. The film rates 6.8 on IMDB and won many awards within and outside South Korea, including best new actress for Kim Go-eun at the prestigious Busan film festival.