28 November 2001 | poikkeus
An irreverent classic
Jang Sun-Woo, who is known for his later (and occasionally extreme films), can always be counted on for intelligent, probing work -- however amusing or even shocking. Hwaomkyung is set in the modern day, telling the story of a Buddhist sutra as through the often surreal events that happen to a young boy. The story follows the general format of stories about spiritual seeking, except this one is so visually convincing that you almost feel as if you've been on a spiritual quest yourself. This has much of the earthiness of Im Kwon-Taek's Mandala, but it doesn't take itself quite as seriously. As a result, the viewer is likely to be entranced by this totally original spiritual quest -- as magical as any Journey to the West -- but one that somehow retains an aura of the sacred. As a result, those who feel they might be turned off by a film like this are likely to be surprised; it's moving, and often quite amusing.
Hwaomkyung is, in short, a near-miracle of a film, one that transcends the pitfalls of your average religious film by divorcing itself from preachiness and doctrinal baggage. Instead, we end up with scenes that are almost transcendent. The story, the images...just breathtaking.