Story: Lee Jeok-yo (Park Hae-il) is a well-respected writer in his 70s, who has a disciple named Seo Ji-woo (Kim Moo-yeol). The
student gets inspired by Jeok-yo's ideas and in return does the household chores. One day the schoolgirl Eun-gyo (Kim Go-eun) suddenly sits on the
veranda of Lee's house. Since Ji-woo needs some time to write on his own novel and Eun-gyo is looking for a part-time job, she takes on the household chores.
Jeok-yo is mesmerized by her spontanity and vivid youth and the girl yearns for a father figure who she finds in the aged writer. But Ji-woo is irritated
by the kind of relationship they share. Meanwhile, Jeok-yo brings his newfound youth to paper and is captured by a strong feeling of desire for the innocent
beauty of Eun-gyo. The relationship between teacher and student becomes worse day by day until jealousy makes Ji-woo do things that he will regret later on.
Review: A poet who finds himself a muse and looks at his life from a completely new perspective. Feelings, which he believed he would never
be allowed to have at his age again, overwhelm him and give him back a sense of youthfulness. "A Muse" is a sad drama that is strongly brought to life
by its poetic pictures. However, in the end it's the characters that keep the movie running and provide it with a certain profoundness. You are instantly
captured by the drama and the tension of the love triangle is continuously risen until the end. Furthermore, the film scores with an at all times
fantastic acting, which creates a tense atmosphere and fleshes out the characters in a pleasantly three-dimensional way.
The story of the movie is based on a novel by Park Bum-shin, who wrote it according to his own thoughts of getting older. The 70-year old poet in the film falls in love with 16-year old high school student Eun-gyo. Actually, we are told that she is 17 but in Korea the year of birth already counts as one. A scandalous story that is nonetheless told with the right amount of subtlety. You could say that the poet is simply yearning for his lost youth, but the pictures leave no doubt that there is also a sexual desire growing. Close-up shots of Eun-gyo and certain body parts of her are no rarity and especially the unusual camera shots in interaction with rooms flooded with sunlight manage to create some extremely nice pictures. Moreover, there is without a doubt also conveyed a strong sense of sensuality.
Park Hae-il ("War of the Arrows") plays the old poet. If you look closely you can make out that a much younger actor has taken on the role. Yet, Park's portrayal of the old man is by far the most convincing portrayal of a young actor among all those I've seen before. This is also thanks to the make-up which wasn't just utilized to make the face look older but also the hands and other parts of the body. Park surely had to sit in front of the make-up artist for hours to get such an impressive make-up. His disciple is played by Kim Moo-yeol ("Doomsday Book") who carries a secret with him which is about to come to light later on. His character is most likely the most unspectacular, but his jealousy of the poet eventually results in a desire for Eun-gyo.
Director Jeong Ji-woo ("A Modern Boy", "Happy End") deserves some words of prais for having had the courage to cast a complete fresh face for the role of the schoolgirl. Kim Go-eun hasn't even played in a TV show before but she brings something vivid and sensual into the movie. She embodies the chasteness of youth although it's also pretty apparent that she doesn't get any attention at home and is looking for a father figure. In some scenes she appears to be a little bit too reflective for her age, though. Apart from that she is very spontanous and revives the old poet's vitality. Physically the poet is only allowed to approach the girl in his fantasy, and that's also when Park finally appears on screen without any make-up.
However, there are still some very sensual sex scenes, a certain one of them, which also stands as the dramatic climax of the film, is so graphic that it even outshines most pink eiga movies! But "A Muse" doesn't become cheap because of that, the beautiful pictures and the at times waltz-like soundtrack bestow a certain class on the movie along with the well drawn characters, something you seldomly get so see. Park Hae-il plays his best role to date and furthermore the movie knows very well how to carry the tension within the love triangle to extremes and deliver some surprises along the way, too. Thus, the almost 130 minutes running time seem a lot shorter as well. A well achieved drama about a taboo love.