Kim Ki-duk’s Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring is in every way a visually magnificent and spiritually contemplating piece of work. It demonstrates the essential principles of Buddhism by structuring the monk’s journey through the seasonal metaphor. Despite the small settings (the scenes are entirely confined to the Jusan pond in Korea), the film discusses, or rather contemplates on, a surprisingly large spectrum of human emotions and experiences, including lust, wrath, love, hate, suffering, murder, suicide, and redemption. The continual cycle of life, encompassing all these emotions and experiences, is just like the eternally renewable four seasons. Another brilliant Korean film, A Tale of Two Sisters, is a psychological horror movie that also discusses the idea of a “perpetual cycle”. However, it focuses more on the continual inheritance of psychosis and shameful secrets within a deeply traumatized family. Both of the films share a similar view on the importance of “letting go” in order to “gain” redemption.
Both films touch on the topic of forbidden love and the importance of “letting go”. In Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring, the old monk’s wisdom shines through his words: ‘Sometimes we have to let go of things we like. What you like, others will also like’. In order to jump out of the seemingly fatalistic cycle, one must forgo certain attachments and obtain forgiveness for past sins. Most of the time, it is probably easier to obtain forgiveness granted by the victims. But the ordeal is often when the offenders cannot release themselves from the sins they have committed, and hence the sufferings and the constantly unpeaceful minds. The film, however, does not merely focuses on punishment or even “letting go”, but rather stresses on the seeking of mental peace and moral purification as ways to the ultimate redemption. In the chapter of “winter”, the returned prodigy drags the millstone all the way to the mountain top while clinging to the...
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