Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring
Run Time: 103 minutes
Director: Ki-Duk Kim
Starring: Yeong-su Oh, Ki-duk Kim, Young-min Kim, Jae-kyeong Seo, Yeo-jin Ha, Jong-ho Kim
DVD Release: September 7, 2004
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Each time I try and write about Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring the cheesy Circle of Life song from The Lion King starts playing in my head. Not because this movie is cheesy, but because it does tell a circular parable for a young Buddhist boy (and it doesn't help that The Lion King was once a very popular movie in my house).
Set primarily in an isolated monastery built in the middle of a lake, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring the story of a young boy's journey to manhood told in five distinct acts. In each of the five parts a lesson is learned and the boy learns something of life, guided by his teacher and his own interactions with the world. Each act contains an element of surprise; the conflict of the sequence, that must be overcome in order for the boy to move to the next stage in his life. While the movie is best described as a drama, it defies any genre at times, delivering moments of humor, dark comedy and tragedy before arriving at it's conclusion. Director Ki-Duk Kim, who also plays one of the more moving characters in the story, uses the changing of the seasons metaphorically to move through life's emergence, growth, decay, death and rebirth, carefully coloring each scene to match the tone. The film is Korean with English or French subtitles, but I found the subtitles almost more distracting than watching the story unfold, relying more on the visualization than dialogue to convey meaning.