Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring
A boy is raised by a Buddhist monk in an isolated floating temple where the years pass like the seasons.A boy is raised by a Buddhist monk in an isolated floating temple where the years pass like the seasons.A boy is raised by a Buddhist monk in an isolated floating temple where the years pass like the seasons.
Beginning in the Spring of an undefined year close to the present, the film is set on (and I mean, on) an isolated lake. A child acolyte lives out a life of quiet contemplation, punctuated by occasional acts of petty animal cruelty. His master, a monk, observes his young charge with increasing disapproval and orders him to undo his evil or face the consequences in his own life. It soon becomes apparent that he means this in anything but the figurative sense.
Moving through the seasons, Kim explores the "cycle of life"; with his acolyte experiencing youthful love (or lust), anger, violence and finally acceptance, contrition and peace. The film ends with a new acolyte and a new cycle: implying an endless repetition with subtle variation.
Spring is not exactly a subtle film, but it is beautifully done. Kim uses silence like few other filmmakers, matching Kurosawa or Bergman at their best. He punctuates these long slow movements with abrupt changes in tempo such as the arrival of Yeo. The pace quickens and the mood changes. The courtship of the adolescent boy and girl are some of the gentlest scenes in cinema (though culminating in a suitably Kim-like, energetic coupling).
With popular Buddhist and Confucian ideas now so firmly established in cinema (thanks in part to their bastardisation by George Lucas), the ideas in this film aren't exactly going to leave its audience in need of a large glass of perspective and soda (to quote Douglas Adams). Lust leads to possessive urges, which lead to violence; ones violent actions lead on to violence against oneself; peace (and redemption) is found not through approbation, but understanding oneself.
I can't quite dispel the notion that The Isle, with its sly humour and darker plot is a better film, or that Spring is, if not completely then at least partially, up the bottom of its own artiness. That said, it is a very, very pretty film. Its story is intelligent, if not awe-inspiring, and it is a delightful change of pace from most modern cinema. Most of all, it is probably one of Kim's most accessible films, and I shall certainly be watching it again if only to see Oh Yeong-su practising his calligraphic art with the tail of a live cat. 7/10.
- Jan 7, 2005