A review of “Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: *** 1/2

Rating: Not Rated, but could be PG-13 for mild sexuality and disturbing images. In Korean with English subtitles

Run Time: 1 hour, 43 minutes

 

 

Provocative, disquieting, and thoroughly original, this Korean import is a moody valentine to transcendent living.

Director Kim Ki-duk offers up a potent sanctuary of lush imagery.  Nestled in their idyllic floating temple on Jusan Pond, Old Monk (veteran theatre actor Oh Young-soo) and Young Monk (Jae-kyeong Seo) mark time by the unflappable rhythms of the seasons. Lessons are learned the hard way; with an eye-for-an-eye guilelessness and a lingering stamp of shame.

The outside intrudes in the form of an ill young beauty who sojourns to the Buddhist refuge to experience the healing powers of time stood still.  Young Monk (grown-up Young-min Kim) succumbs to heretofore unknown desires, the pagan lust of the world of men that will lead him to an unhealthy obsession and the ultimate dark deed.

Young Monk is at the film’s core, growing and changing along with the leaves and the glassy waters’ ebb and flow. The film’s chapters unfold along with the seasons, chronicling his reflection, atonement, and rebirth and enlightenment. 

Spring, Summer is eminently watchable, despite its languorous pacing and super-spare dialogue.  Melodrama unfolds around every corner, from cruel childish games to clandestine carnalities and Old Monk’s final sacrifice.   

Sophisticated serenity is this mood piece’s hallmark.  Lush and succinct images support the twists and turns of nature’s natural terms and the rumination of man’s evident shortcomings. Elegant and unforgettable.