On a fishing boat at sea, a 60-year old man has been raising a girl since she was a baby. It is agreed that they will get married on her 17th birthday, and she is 16 now. They live a quiet and secluded life, renting the boat to day fishermen and practicing strange divination rites. Their life changes when a teenage student comes aboard...
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In the midst of the Korean wilderness, a Buddhist master patiently raises a young boy to grow up in wisdom and compassion, through experience and endless exercises. Once the pupil discovers his sexual lust, he seems lost to contemplative life and follows his first love, but soon fails to adapt to the modern world, gets in jail for a crime of passion and returns to the master in search of spiritual redemption and reconciliation with karma, at a high price of physical catharsis... Written by
a Buddhist meditation on life and death, and what surrounds us
I remember when I saw this film on screen last year, I was struck by the rhythm director Kim Ki-Duk used in the film. It's deliberate, too deliberate for most I'd suppose. But like a reading good piece of philosophy, the filmmaker allows the viewer to get as much as they may find in the work. The story is more of a fable than a really conventional narrative- a baby is delivered to the steps of a Buddhist house on a lake, where the boy is raised by a master. He grows up, and falls temptation to the desires of the world. He decides to leave, only to return and find himself again. In the end, as winter comes, things come full circle. Each of the 'seasons' of the film are handled delicately, with the kind of simplicity that may appeal even more to children (the segment of the first 'spring' with the child transcends religion and goes into the basic stance of nature). The scenes of finding lust in 'summer' is not terribly graphic, but it puts the point on what is right and wrong in the customs and traditions of the religion. Then in 'Autumn', there are harsher lessons to be learned, and this also contains the best acting from the old master and the young, angry pupil. And 'Winter' becomes the most meditative of them all, with next to no dialog. Indeed that may be the turn off to most viewers- to say that the film isn't supported by dialog is an under-statement. And its not necessarily documentary realism. What I sensed from the film, and what stuck with me for a few days afterward, was the spiritual attitude behind the style, the confidence that the rhythm had a connection with the subject matter. It's one of the most soulful films to come out of the Eastern world in some time. It's less a traditional drama than a unique experience, for better or worse, really more for the better.
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