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Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter... and Spring (Bom yeoreum gaeul gyeoul geurigo bom) (2003)

  Directed by: Ki-duk Kim
Written by: Ki-duk Kim
Starring: Jong-ho Kim, Ki-duk Kim, Young-min Kim, Yeong-su Oh, Jae-kyeong Seo
Links: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter... and Spring on the IMDb, Official site, Buy on Video, Buy on DVD
Genre: Drama

This movie gets: 8.00 (1 rating) Ranking: not yet ranked (awaiting 2 ratings)

"Beautiful, but not perfect" - a review by pearly

At first, I got the feeling that Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter... and Spring was going to be the kind of film that focused solely on visuals, but didn't have much of a story running through it. This is not correct, though. Though initially slow moving, there is a definite story, and as the film progresses, the story becomes more and more prominent, with the visuals beginning to fade into the background.

The story is split into five sections, which are the seasons described in the film's title. Beginning in Spring, we meet an old monk living in a beautiful wooden house/temple in the middle of a lake. Living with him is a young boy of about five years old who is in his training. The two live off the land, gathering medicines in the form of plants, and spending most of their time preparing these items, or praying. When the young monk treats some animals cruelly, his master shows him the error of his ways. All of this is to a beautiful backdrop of blossom on the trees surrounding the lake.

As we progress to Summer, the boy has grown, and is becoming a young man. And so, over the course of the film, we see the cyclical nature of life. It doesn't, however, play out exactly as you might imagine it would. This, in some ways, is a negative. I felt that to a certain extent, the story was over-dramatised, which took away from the message it was trying to give. A more subtle approach would have worked a little better. When I say this, I am mainly referring to the events in Winter. I was fine with what happened in Autumn, but having Winter on top of this was getting a bit much, I think.

The film, whilst beautiful to look at, was sometimes a little lacking in this area. I particularly noticed this during Autumn, which I had been looking forward to. I expected to see the valley aburst with the oranges of deciduous trees, but it was almost as if there were some corners being cut, because it was only the trees closest to camera that looked to be shedding their leaves: the ones in the distance at the other side of the lake still looked pretty green. Winter more than made up for this, with its frozen lake being a delight to see. I was shivering in my seat!

On the downside, I missed some of the subtitles, as they were at times difficult to read, but since the dialogue in the film is quite sparse, this wasn't too much of an issue. The back-to-basics themes of the film made it enjoyable, and there is more symbolism running through it than you can poke a stick at, meaning different people with different levels of knowledge (and particularly, I imagine Buddhists would see things that I did not) will get different things out of it. I really liked the film, but I was conscious of the fact that with just a few changes, it could have been even better.

pearly gives this movie 8 out of 10.
Review created on Fri 24 Sep 2004

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