Starring: Kim Ki-duk, Oh Yeong-su, Kim Jong-ho
Director: Kim Ki-duk
Running Time: 103 mins
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… And Spring is a South Korean film about the life of a young apprentice who lives on a floating temple in the middle of an isolated lake in the Korean mountains, and his journey to spiritual freedom under the teaching of an old wise monk.
This is a compelling and deeply emotional tale of the cycle of life and nature. It’s a very quiet, slow and understated film, yet it provides you with the exact time you need to think about everything that’s happening on a deeper level, which is surprisingly easy to do thanks to the brilliant writing and the excellent atmosphere created here.
That is by far the most impressive part of this film, how it creates a beautiful atmosphere of serenity and peace to mirror its message of this young man journeying through life in order to achieve inner peace and spiritual freedom. The setting of the isolated Korean mountains and the magical lake buried within is spectacular to behold, and the changing appearance of the setting throughout the five seasons is something that works so well not only on a visual level, but also on a contemplative level, as each season mirrors the atmosphere of that part of the story, and as such exemplifies that feeling even more.
The excellent writing here is also significant in making for a film that is consistently compelling despite its extremely patient pacing and loose structure. It’s a film that lacks a lot of dialogue – most of the story is told either through simple shots of nature or the actions of the characters – there are few long scenes of talking that could become confusing. Instead, this film keeps everything very simplistic and quiet in order to further evoke that sentiment of peacefulness and serenity that is so prevalent, something that makes it even more wonderful to watch.
The majority of the film’s deeper symbolism revolves around traditional Buddhist imagery and symbols, and whilst it doesn’t hurt to do some reading up on that on Wikipedia just before, this film is still perfectly watchable and coherent on a similar level to someone with a strong understanding of all of the symbolism, and as I found out, you don’t need that knowledge to still be allowed to think about what you’re watching, because this film’s beautifully serene atmosphere, patient pacing and quietness all make for a therapeutic and pleasant viewing, and that’s why this gets an 8.3 from me.