Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring – IMDb 238/250
My exploration into East Asian cinema continued when I watched the beautifully serene Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring for my latest IMDb review, a modern South Korean classic from director Kim Ki-duk.
Kim Ki-duk, who at the time was noted for gory, action, and sexualised Korean films (such as the very odd Bad Guy which I watched at university), went a different direction with this film, which but this film charts the entire life of a young apprentice monk from childhood into old age through the use of five different seasons, showcasing a whole different style and method of directing for Ki-duk.
As an English viewer of Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring, many of the films main usage of symbolism is lost on me, as much of what Kim does with this film relates to Buddhist symbols and iconography.
The use of Buddha statues, hens, cats and Buddhist writings, foreshadow and subtly comment on the story, but knowing nothing of the culture or the symbols meanings, I really didn’t even notice they were there, and it didn’t matter at all.
Without really realising it until half way through I was completely mesmerised and invested in this film.
It really was like nothing I had seen before. Nature seemed to flow through this. The film is set on a floating temple, with the monk and his apprentice needing to row a small boat across a lake to get anywhere near normal society.
The flowing of the water, the sound of the animals and the quiet music makes it a contemplative film, as the story slowly builds and develops delicately like the sound itself.
It is only really at the end of the film, where you see someone using a mobile phone and modern handgun, that you realise this is set in our present day, you get so completely lost in a different kind of world for these characters, and romanticise what it would be like to live in their bubble.
But although the cinematography, imagery and sound take centre stage over dialogue, action and plot in this film, the story of Spring, Summer Fall, Winter… and Spring is beautifully told, using the various seasons to tell a story that eventually left me shocked, with the tone of the film rapidly changing.
Throughout much of the first hour the two characters seem to live idyllic lives, but through the use of the young apprentices own cruelty to animals as a young boy you know he is capable of something darker.
Sadly this seemingly innate darkness in him (and perhaps in us all) comes to light when he falls in love with a young woman who visits the temple to heal herself of an unknown illness.
What happens to him and what he does, as well as his Masters reaction to this, is completely shocking. The way this is handled is opposing and a complete contrast to anyway an English or American film would handle the drama that unfolds.
And that is why I loved it – I was shown something completely different, taken into a whole different version of my own world I knew nothing about.
Like Departures did before it, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring has given me a whole new appreciation for East Asian cinema.
This is a film I could say so much about, (my notes for this lasted about three pages). I would say it is a perfect movie for analysis, so any film studies students looking for a great essay topic, I’d recommend this one.
Not the kind of film you want to repeatedly watch and at times the absurdity may be a bit over the top, but I can certainly say this is a unique film with a lot to say about love, nature, nurture, morality and what it means to be alive, presented beautifully in this incredible setting of a lonely lake in South Korea.
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring: 8/10
P.S – Exactly one year ago today we created this blog! And I’ve done 12 of my 250 reviews…. This might take a while.