SPRING, SUMMER, FALL, WINTER ...AND SPRING
THUMBS UP FOREIGN FILM REVIEW RATING!
A recent blockbuster film, MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA, blew my mind with its sumptuous cinematography, settings, and costumes. It was pure eye-candy, through and through. Looking at the cost of production, $85 million, one can easily see the care director Rob Marshall took with each and every shot. Now let’s move on to SPRING, SUMMER, FALL, WINTER ...AND SPRING (SSFWAS), director Ki-duk Kim’s sparkling success.
Shot in one location on a high mountain lake in Korea, and using only a handful of actors/actresses, SSFWAS accomplishes the same wondrous scenery with only a fraction of the GEISHA budget.
The story is that of a monk and a young boy in training to become a monk. They live in a monastery that floats, raft-like, on a pristine mountain lake. The monk teaches the boy life lessons: how to pray, caring for one’s home, and treating nature’s creatures with respect. We view their experiences through the title’s seasons, sometimes leaping a few years ahead, watching the boy grow, mature, and learn how tough life can be. As the story progresses, the boy battles his demons, learns by hard example, then comes full-circle to become the very thing he so recklessly tossed away (his faith in God/Buddha and his trust in his old mentor, the monk).
The script is a simple one, not delving into side-plots, but giving us a glimpse at how extraordinary life truly is. This isn’t just the life of a boy and his master, though. This is everyone’s life with all its trials, follies, and triumphs. But through all of this simplicity there’s the camera work. It is (to use a cliche) breathtaking. The changes in season are stunning, and the lighting, angles and scope of the landscape are visually perfect.
It’s also interesting to note that the film is only 103 minutes long and has maybe 30 lines of dialogue. The scenery tells the story more often than anything the actors say, which is also impressive.
Not surprising, the movie is slow but viewers probably won’t notice because of the oohing and ahing most will do while sitting drinking in every lush scene.