This is my first meet to Kim Ki-Duk. He is the auteur-director who brought last year's Golden Lion winner, "Pieta", and more than that, I with my least experience of movie came with "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring" just by chance. And this movie is beyond any of my movie-watching experience, because in a way, it is a light and simple movie with a highly valuable and rich content. This is the movie that humbly teaches you about life.
“Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring” is divided into five segments that represent each season contained in the title. All the segments cover the life of a Buddhist monk in a floating monastery somewhere in South Korea. In spring, we will be introduced with an old monk (portrayed by Oh Su-Yeong) teaching a very young apprentice (portrayed by Kim Jong-Ho). In summer, which is actually summer years after the spring, the young apprentice grows into a teenager (portrayed by Seo Jae-Kyeong) who meets a girl (portrayed by Ha Yeo-Jin) coming to the monastery due to her illness. In fall, years after the summer, the teenager becomes a mature man (portrayed by Kim Young-Min) and learns about anger management, as the old monk grows older and older. In winter, years after the fall, the monastery is left alone on the frozen lake and the young apprentice, who now turns into a middle-aged man (portrayed by Kim Ki-Duk) goes back and takes care of the monastery, until the next spring finally comes.
"Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring" is wise and humble. With a mild background of Buddhism, it leads you to understand its meaning with nearly no efforts to be judgmental and sentimental. You will learn anything you like to absorb from it, you can interpret it as whatever you want. "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring" is just way too humble to be a teacher of the lesson about life, which I interpret as the big layer that it tries to tell to its viewers. No need to be too ambitious, Ki-Duk knows that it only takes silent but powerful portraits of the peace of a life of a monk on a floating monastery far in the middle of a valley, somewhere in South Korea, to give the viewers hints to understand this movie the way they want.
Symbolism, metaphorical images, and philosophical thoughts are the key factors of "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring", and in this case, some impatient viewers will just quit watching it in just a few minutes. But, let it play and you'll be introduced to the non-grandiose piece of life that few of us have ever known before. Less dialogues, more artistic portraits, and a handful cues about the problems of life are shown in a form of a cycle of seasons: spring—when everything on earth starts to grow and bloom, summer—when maturity and brightness of sunlight blinds our sight, fall—when dry leaves fall from the branches and flowers die, winter—when breeze brings out an opportunity to live within your inner and safest place, and back to spring—when everything starts all over again. What a beauty.
I have nothing to say about the acting, but I would rather to discuss about how Ki-Duk plays with the power of cinematography and music to fill the nuance of emptiness and depression—and avoid them to be the main theme of this movie. He knows very well how to let certain scenes carry out the spirit that is also taken by the season it is placed. He puts and arranges them nicely, plus he gives meaning to them. Finally, how the scenes are pictured and where certain musics are played give weighted importance without letting them be obscured in the name of metaphors and ambiguity. Artistry is how to describe his style, and with my insignificant exposure of this kind of movies, things are going greatly and essentially without leaving too much questions to ask.
Beyond all his artistic efforts, he gives significant attention to the narrative aspect of this movie. "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring" becomes easier to understand, and viewers will still have something to retell more than just some blah-blah-blah about life lesson or what. Although it is not the real soul of this movie, interesting plots still give this movie another interesting point that attract viewers to love it more. The duration is still acceptable, and pacing is kept balanced. After all, more than that is open to discuss, from which viewers will potentially gain another interesting value from this movie (like why no characters, except the police officers, are given names; or [SPOILER STARTS] what is the probability that the veiled lady in the winter is the girl who comes in the summer? [SPOILER ENDS])
I would like to see other works of Kim Ki-Duk after this one. Thankfully, "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring" gives a very thoughtful and unimaginable idea that has never been expected to be contained in such a seemingly obscure movie like this. It is an achievement in film-making, when moral and philosophical values are given big attention without leaving less concern to the other aspect like the story, characters, and technical aspects. Thank God for such an enlightening and inspiring movie like this.
▲ Beautiful and contains deep value about life without being too judgmental
▼ A bit draggy
SPRING, SUMMER, FALL, WINTER... AND SPRING | ORIGINAL TITLE Bom Yeoreum Gaeul Gyeoul Geurigo Bom COUNTRY South Korea YEAR 2003 RATING Rated R for some strong sexuality RUNTIME 103 min GENRE Drama CAST Oh Su-Yeong, Kim Jong-Ho, Seo Jae-Kyeong, Kim Young-Min, Kim Ki-Duk WRITER Kim Ki-Duk DIRECTOR Kim Ki-Duk MORE INFO