Saturday, September 29, 2007

Spring Summer Fall Winter ... And Spring by Ki Duk Kim

A film from Korea. With stunning cinematography, this film explores the themes of ignorance, time, cause and effect, suffering and redemption.

The film hardly contains any dialogue and there are only a few events which happen during the entire film, but they are enough to convey the essential message. A familiarity with Buddhism will certainly help one in appreciating the film beetter. Ignorance is the basis of suffering in Buddhism. It is well nigh impossible to know the consequences of all our acts (ref. the so-called Butterfly Effect), but the chain of cause and effect is inexorable. As seasons come and go, as we get older and wiser, we regret some of the follies of our younger years, we regret the hurts we caused and the hearts we broke.

This film does require patience. It is not a parable as it encompasses almost an entire life of one man, and it is not too subtle at times, but it is meditative, giving enough pauses to reflect on the fate of the characters.

As someone on IMDB points out, all the principal characters in the film are nameless, as in Buddhism, individuality is considered an illusion, and names only a practical convenience for worldly affairs. Other than that, the absence of names also points to the universality of the theme.

Every film is a microcosmos. In a wide thematic film such as this, issues as diverse as parental authority, the youthful bubbling of sexual energy, the rebellion against established norms, the storm of possessiveness and jealousy, the question of suicide, the emergence and decay and end of life, the norms of the world and the norms of a monastery, industralization and pollution are softly touched but nothing is said about them.

The writer Hermann Hesse considered the phase of Samsara (worldly suffering) as an essential factor in one's spiritual salvation, as without it, the suffering and the desire to be free, remains theoretical and a mere curiosity.

This film, however, does not question some of the basic tenets of prevailing Buddhism and I think the director is deliberate in pandering to common notions of spirituality, karma and penance.

As to the technical aspects of the film, a few remarks:

The scene composition and cinematography, as I said, is superb. The music and dialogue is excellent. The acting is above average but not exemplary.

Recommendation: Very Good

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