Monday, November 6, 2006

"SPRING, SUMMER, FALL, WINTER ... AND SPRING"

CineManila
World Cinema Category
Greenbelt 1, Cinema 2

4 Seasons


A very simple Korean film about the different seasons in the life of a man. It traces his existence from his childhood till his old age in a setting which is breathtakingly beautiful - a wooden temple/shrine in the middle of a wide lake surrounded by lush green mountains. There are only two main characters. A young boy and a wise old monk.
Day in and day out, life is pretty much the same in this idyllic place devoid of any distractions such as a TV or a computer for that matter. Most of the time they collect herbs in the forest for medicinal purposes and pray to Buddha.

The film starts with the first season "Spring" the boy is about 5 years old and is very curious and quite playful. The wise old man quietly observes the young kid. The season changes to "Summer" and this time he is now a teenager of about I would say 15 years old. One day a mother brings her teen daughter to the shrine in hopes of finding her a cure for her sickness. She leaves her daughter behind while she is being healed. But the young guy falls in love with her and they both decide to leave once she has recovered from her illness. "Fall" focuses on the old monk left alone to his own devices. One day the young guy returns as a grown man of 30 years old. Hardened and bitter by the conflicts and hardships which dealt him a rough life out in the real world. Most of the drama unfolds in the season as both the old monk and the grown man deal with several burdens. In the "Winter" part, he is now an older man left to take care of the shrine after the monk has crossed over to the great beyond. Then it is back to the same cycle of life once "Spring" starts and the tide has turned as the young kid in the beginning of the film is now the old monk and there is a young boy who appears under mysterious circumstances.

This film shines despite its very simplistic approach. Hardly any dialogue, no long narratives yet it is fraught with a lot of symbolisms. Subtle hints about finding one's self, about discovering the pitfalls of life and maintaining an inner sense of peaceful balance amidst various conflicts which pop up during one's lifetime. The movie is flawlessly crafted, the cinematography is crisp with very beautiful shots of all the four seasons in one single place. The characters don't say much but their body language is very expressive and their facial gestures convey a whole myriad of rich emotions. A film that evokes many thoughts yet in a very muted manner and you leave the theater with a certain sense of calm demeanor which envelopes you with some peace of mind. Until you end up stuck in a traffic jam on your way home. Oh well, back to MY reality! =)

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