Sunday, 17 January 2010

Lust = Passion = Murder.

I don't know if I'm used to the Australian industry, where even after a hit film it'll take you roughly four and a half centuries to get another film up, but I don't think that's entirely it. I actually think Kim Ki-duk is a fairly prolific director. I mean, 15 feature films since 1996 seems like a fair number, right? Though, his last film was in 2009 - interestingly, the only other year since his debut that he hasn't released a film was 1999, so maybe it's a '9' thing. Maybe that's the year of each decade he takes a nap.

I was fascinated by his 2003 release Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter... And Spring when it was on release in Australia, though I again never got to see it, probably because of the title. What does it mean? Why is it so long? How damn cool is it for a title for a film?

The answer to the first question is that it means exactly what it seems to mean. The seasons in the title refer to the episodes of life, broken down from birth (spring) to rebirth (spring again.) A monk lives in a temple sitting in the middle of a lake, with a very young monk-in-training. The entire film takes place on, in and directly around this lake, following the monks as the young monk progresses through these seasons of life - summer is his first blossoming of love and his escape from the lake; autumn sees his arrest for a heinous crime and the eventual death of the master; winter sees the young monk (now not so young) return to the lake and take charge of the temple; and spring again sees him take on a new apprentice, replicating the beginning of the film, showing that the circle of this young monk's life is now complete.

It is a beautiful and simple story, told with few words yet a lot of emotion. The old monk does not judge, he simply accepts stoically the mistakes and humanity of the young monk, and his ultimate death seems to imply that his acceptance is possibly born from the fact that he, too, has made similar mistakes and trodden similar paths through his lifetime before arriving at the enlightened spiritual state he appears to inhabit. And the pursuit of a modern kind of happiness by the young monk, only to return at the end to the simple life he once scorned, is almost a reflection of so many adult desires to return to a younger life where things were simple, where life was easier.

Wonderfully shot, sometimes the performance of the various actors playing the young monk does have holes in it, but with so little really demanded of the performers on the whole this doesn't really trouble you - the majority of the portrayal is pulled off perfectly, so those moments not up to par are few. The affecting story is what grabs you and draws you in - again, it lulls you into a state where you can position yourself within that lake and you begin to wish for the simple things again. 

It is the way cinema so rarely is, beautiful and intoxicating without appearing to have an underlying motive of superiority or moral high ground. There is no judgement here, only a story, beautifully told. 4.5 stars.

1 comment:

  1. I've never heard of this movie before, but since you mention Australian movie industry, I must say it seems I love everyone from Downunder :) And I generally think that Australians are the most beautiful people on Earth :) I was always stunned by the beauty of their women and men.
    And it's interesting that 90% of my favourite actors are Ozzies :) KARL URBAN, TONI COLLETTE, CATE BLANCHETT, SAM WORTHINGTON, ERIC BANA .... CRAIG PARKER, JESSICA MARAIS, HOLLY VALANCE (who is also Serbian), KYLIE AND DANNI, HUGH JACKMAN... and those are just a few of them :)