Friday, December 28, 2012

Just watched...

..."Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring," a 2003 South Korean film from director Kim Ki-duk.

In the continuing effort to try to stay current with the ever-growing Netflix queue, we finally watched this film I had been meaning to see for quite a while. I came across some production stills from it a few years ago and it looked like a must-see piece of art. I am so glad it did not fall off my "To See" list.

This gorgeous, simple film about a very small Buddhist monastery—which floats on a pristine lake in the untouched beauty of a mountainous region—with a single Master/herbal healer and a small boy apprentice touches on ideas of inner and outer desires, dissatisfaction, atonement, love, and karma.

Divided into five sections, one for each of the seasons in the title, we trace not only the literal quarterly shifts of the year, but also the figurative seasons of the life journey (spring is childhood, summer is adulthood, fall is old age and winter is death) of both the Master and his apprentice.

When a mother brings her ill teenage daughter to the floating monastery to be healed, the now-teenaged apprentice falls in love. But as the Master tells his young charge, “Lust awakens the desire to possess. And that awakens the intent to murder.” The young apprentice runs away despite the warning, and the wheel of karma is set in motion. The cycle of seasons, the cycle of life...

Both the compelling story and the breathtaking visuals make this film a rich experience (see stills below). The recurring motif of doors plays an important part in the film--where they are, how they are used, and who uses them, sometimes even when there is no wall! Much of the action takes place without dialogue, which reinforces the quietude of the surroundings of the monastery; it also helps us concentrate on the deeper meaning of the story itself. It unfolds like a gorgeous ancient Korean painting on silk.

Recommend? Yes. Truly beautiful to see and to contemplate.

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