Watching IMDb's top 250 films | New review every Friday
Most of the films that we’ve seen so far have been easy enough to get hold of. (Not on Netflix, of course!) But this one was a bit tricky. My only option was to order a fairly pricey import DVD from Amazon.
This made me draw a couple of conclusions about the film before I’d even seen it. Conclusions that could be summed up as either ‘esoteric’ or ‘limited appeal’ based on my frame of mind at the time. ‘Niche’ is another one that seemed apt.
But after my Nosferatu experience, where I suspect I had let my expectations colour my experience, I was determined to approach this with as open a mind as I could manage.
‘This film takes place in an isolated lake, where an old monk lives on a small floating temple. The wise master has also a young boy with him that teaches to become a monk. And we watch as seasons and years pass by.’
Score 8.0/10, number 239 on the list.
See the full review of Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter… and Spring (2003) on IMDb.
Im and I went to see Monkey, Journey to the West years ago at the Royal Opera House. We had booked the tickets months in advance and had been looking forward to it with increasing excitement. When the night finally came though I found myself unable to wrest my attention away from the surtitles and felt, in the end, that I’d missed out on some of the experience as a result.
What I should have done was to just sit there, ignore the plot and enjoy the spectacle; to just let the whole thing wash over me. That’s what I decided to do with this film, and I’m glad I did. There is some plot here, but it unfolds slowly. There’s plenty of time to just experience what you are being shown. Like… zen, maaaan.
I’m finding it hard to put my feelings about this film into words and am tempted for the first time to look at what others have said, steal the best of their ideas and then pass them off as my own. Maybe that’s in part because of the way I chose to watch it. I didn’t make any notes. I didn’t worry about remembering bits to blog about later. I just experienced moments as they passed and then let them go. I am coming to realise that this was not very helpful as far as writing a review goes!
The film is beautiful. The setting is a buddhist temple floating on a lake high in the forest-covered hills of… er… doesn’t matter*. We see the seasons change (as you probably expected given the title) and mirror the changes taking place in the lives of the old monk and his pupil. We see the young monk grow into the life of contemplation and respect for nature, but then get derailed by that old Buddhist kryptonite, desire. In this case, the sort of desperate and maladroit sexual yearning familiar to anyone who has lived through the horror of being a 15-year-old boy.
The sexytimes bring the modern, secular world crashing into the monks’ lakeland home and it’s never quite the same again. Damn you, sexytimes! The young monk is left suffering and struggling for atonement for the rest of the film. Desire has entered his heart and will never leave it again. Duuuuuuuuude.
Best bit: possibly when the old monk uses a cat’s tail as a paintbrush. The cat, to which the tail is still attached, is understandably quite pissed off.
* Later I found out it was Korea but that knowing that doesn’t add anything to the film.
I had low expectations of this film, but it was a visual treat. The first part of the film (“spring”) centres on the day-to-day life of a monk and his young pupil, who occupy a kind of idyll of innocence, until in adolescence (“summer”) the modern world intrudes, with discombobulating results. I’m intrigued by Buddhist practice, and enjoyed this meditation on the passing of time, the eternity of the natural world and the fallibility of human nature. It wasn’t exactly action-packed and my mind wandered at times, as I was, tellingly, tempted by the alternative diversions of Facebook and my emails, but it was lovely to look at, and very moving at times.
Best bit: The cinematography, the beautiful location and the tai chi – which I have only ever seen done badly by tossers in the park, but which was amazing when observed in someone who knew what they were doing and did it well.
Score: I’m surprised to be giving it a 9 out of 10, as I didn’t feel that I enjoyed it that much, but … well, it evidently made some kind of impact.