A unique and absorbing philosophical drama, "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring" captures the cycle of life in a concise 100 minutes.
In this mesmerizing film, we are introduced to the four seasons of life, starting with a look at a young monk who lives with his master on a floating temple in the middle of a small lake. With each season, years pass and we see how the boy develops. As with all children, he is at first playful and curious, but as he grows up, teenage lust clouds his mind. Love draws him away from his teachings, but that is only a part of life. Hardships occur, but that is nature. In the end, life must go on...
Okay, so it's hard to make this movie sound interesting to those of you who aren't into spirituality and the more serious side of "The Lion King." I'm not either, but there's just something about "Spring, Summer" that works so effectively. Writer-director Ki-duk Kim captures the beauty of simplicity so easily, both through the wonderful scenery and the emotions of the characters. There is very little dialogue in the movie, yet I was drawn to the characters almost immediately. While the second half is very good, the first half is excellent, first portraying the innocence (and consequences of that innocence) of childhood perfectly and then moving onto the sexual tension of teenage life. Some of the best moments are the scenes between Jae-kyeong Seo and Yeo-jin Ha as their relationship slowly grows and transforms. It is here we get to feel the character the most.
The movie is very slow and methodical, yet for the most part intriguing, spellbinding and at times entertaining. There are some genuinely funny moments, and the sadder scenes are still done in such a way that they evoke an emotional response without ever hinting at the darkness the film is trying to suggest. There are a few overly slow parts, especially near the end, but Kim has a masterpiece at his hands.
"Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring" isn't for everyone, but it will appeal to broader audiences than one might think. The movie is a brief look at humanity, at the lighter and darker sides, and it tells its story with heart and sincerity.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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