Dongju: The Portrait of a Poet
Time Out says
Only a few months after the hit Joseon Era drama The Throne, director Lee Joon-ik returns with a very different kind of film. A black and white biopic set during World War II, when Korea was occupied by Japan, Dongju: The Portrait of a Poet is a much smaller film that sees him team up with arthouse director Shin Yeon-shick, who served as the scriptwriter.
Lushly filmed and sensitively performed, the period drama follows the young poet Dong-ju and his friend Mong-kyu as they look to get into university. While Dong-ju writes verses about the harsh realities of their lives, Mong-kyu becomes active with dissenters, which invites negative attention on them both.
With its fluid and articulate script, Dongju falls more in line with Shin’s indies (such as The Russian Novel) rather than Lee’s bigger-budget fare. Yet certain commercial concessions, be they romantic or comic, do wean their way in throughout, resulting in a slight discord. Perhaps this is just as well, as without a certain familiarity with Korean history or literature (not to mention the language), the film’s tone and deliberate pacing can be heavy-going.
Young stars Kang Ha-neul and Park Jung-min, who are surrounded with excellent veteran performers, are well cast and do particularly strong work in the film’s dramatic yet tastefully observed finale. Still, given the pedigree behind it, one can’t help but feel that Dongju could have offered viewers something more tangible.
By Pierce Conran (Producer at 2MrFilms, film critic)
Cast and crew