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Film Review: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter…and Spring

Posted on the 15 February 2013 by Donnambr @_mrs_b

About Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter...and Spring (2003)SpringMeditative coming-of-age drama by Korean director Kim Ki-duk. The film, which is divided into five sections to reperesent the stages of a man’s life, is set entirely on and around a remote mountain lake where a tiny Buddhist monastery floats on a raft amidst the breathtakingly beautiful landscape. Here an old Buddhist monk (Oh Young-Su) instructs his young child apprentice (Kim Jong-Ho) in Buddhist philosophy and shows him how to live in harmony with nature. But as the boy grows older, he becomes consumed by guilt, jealousy and sexual longing, and leaves the monastery to pursue his worldy desires. However, he eventually returns, exhausted and drained by his experiences, and (now played by the director, Kim Ki-duk) slowly matures and rebuilds himself to become a teacher himself. The film won the Audience Award at the 2003 San Sebastian film festival, among numerous other international awards.

Starring: Ki-duk Kim, Yeong-su Oh, Jong-ho Kim, Young-min Kim, Jae-kyeong Seo

Directed by: Ki-duk Kim

Runtime: 103 minutes

Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

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Review: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter…and Spring 

Directed by Ki-duk Kim, this beautiful film is pleasing on the eye as it is in its simplicity. Rather than referring to five consecutive seasons, the film focuses on the different stages in the life of a monk’s apprentice, beginning with him as a young boy (Spring), teenager (Summer), young man (Autumn), middle aged man (Winter) and finally an old man (Spring). Under the early tutelage of an aging monk (Yeong-su Oh), the apprentice learns of the world around him before abandoning his faith for the love of a woman only to have his fingers burned by the outside world. He later returns to his former home to begin his life anew.

The film is set in the same location throughout, the old monk’s monastery floating in the middle of a lake and the surrounding land. At the outset his young apprentice is a curious child but the old monk is willing to punish him if he sins. A stand-out moment is when the boy finds it amusing tying rocks to a fish, a frog and a snake. Observed by his master, the boy later wakes to find he has a rock tied to him and though he cries and complains his master will not untie the burden until he has done the same to the animals he picked on. The old monk promises the boy he will carry guilt for the rest of his life if any of the animals have died. The boy is deeply upset when he finds only the frog is alive which he manages to set free.

As a teenager the apprentice fights with temptation when a mother brings her daughter to the monastery, insisting she is ill and time with the monks will help her find a cure. The daughter does find a cure when she and the apprentice fall in love and begin an affair. When the old monk discovers this he insists the girl should leave. This is too much for the apprentice who ignores his master’s warnings and abandons the monastery to begin a new life with the woman. He later returns as a young man having found himself on the wrong side of the law and seeking redemption from his former master. I won’t say any more about how the apprentice’s life turns as he enters the winter and spring of his life.

I really enjoyed Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter…and Spring. The apprentice’s story is one of spiritual growth. As a boy he displays cruelty, as a teenager he betrays his faith for love and heads for the outside world only to find pain and sorrow there. The rest of his life is spent in redemption but whether he finds it is not for me to say. I always tell film fans to try world cinema as they may be pleasantly surprised. This is yet another example of why I will always have one eye on world cinema.

Verdict: 5/5

(Film source: reviewer’s own copy)

Film Review: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter…and Spring | Thank you for reading Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dave

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