Lee Joon-ik (The King and the Clown, The Throne) has made a career out of vibrant historical films—visual operas splashed with color—but he takes a more intimate, chamber-like approach for this charged depiction of the life of Yun Dongju, a beloved poet who died young at the hands of Japanese colonialists. Dongju (Kang Ha-neul) never wanted to be a revolutionary, but in a time when the Korean language was banned and Koreans were forced to adopt Japanese names, his clarion verses are regarded by the authorities as an act of dissent, and he is inexorably drawn into the struggle by his fiery cousin, Song Mong-gyu (Park Jung-min). Wisely opting for subtlety over sensationalism, Lee shot the film in sober and misty black and white, and the result is an impressive piece of cinematic poetry that embodies the spirit of the title character. Presented with the support of Korean Cultural Center New York, and as part of the Korean Movie Night New York Master Series: Lee Joon-ik.
Q&A with Lee Joon-ik and Shin Yeon-shick