Osian's Cinefan Film Fest: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring by Kim Ki-Duk

[Note: Spoilers, but it doesn't matter]

The theater was empty and slowly filling up since, like me, most others were unable to get tickets for Rituparno Ghosh’s Dosar, and Sudipto Sen’s The Last Monk.

Spring, Summer... begins in spring, and we are introduced to a monk and his young ward, living on a monastary floating in a lake surrounded by mountains.

One day, the young boy ties a stone each around a fish, a frog and a snake, and laughs at their agony while his master spies on him from a rock above. That night, while the boy is asleep, his master ties a heavy stone around his back, and removes it only after the boy releases the animals that he had burdened. "What goes around, comes around" seems to be the message.

The humour in the film often stems from the use of animals: The appearance of a snake makes the audience fear for the safety of the child, only for him to casually pick it up and toss it away. Later, the master pulls the boat in towards the floating monastary using a rooster, and even paints the sutra on the floor using a cats tail while it mews in protest.



In Summer, the young monk is introduced to lust, by the introduction of a sickly young woman to the monastery. Eventually, his lust takes care of her ailment. On her leaving, the young man runs away, unable to handle the lack of the satisfaction of his lust, as opposed to leaving because he loves the young woman. In consonance with Buddhist philosophy, all such demands are shown as mental manifestations of bodily needs.



The once young man returns in the 'Fall' of his life, after having killed his lover because she chose another man over him. His master accepts him, and gives him the arduous task of chiseling a sutra on the monastery floor, which the master had painted with the tail of a cat. The policemen, who are the only characters actually named in the movie, wait in the cold for their captive to finish, and end up assisting the monk in painting the letters. Respect for the monk and his power over his ward seem to supersede standard operating procedures.



In Winter, the convict returns, no longer young. His master had ended his own life when he felt that his time had come, and a snake has taken his place, perhaps explaining the concept of rebirth. A child is brought to the monk by a young mother, and with Spring, begins another Buddhist cycle of life.

Two things in the movie stand out: The first and most obvious one is the beauty of the surroundings. Whether you agree with, or even care for the philosophy and the excessive moralizing, you’re likely to be amazed by the shots of the mist as it flows across the valley lake, of the temple, and the green, sometimes iceladen mountains. The second thing, and I didn’t notice it till much later in the movie, is that there are almost no dialogues. Materialistic life isn’t condemned as much as it is shown as mental weakness, and there are no ‘Bad Guys’ whom the Buddhist defeats with his will, or martial arts. The lessons in Spring, Summer… are in the actions.




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