October 16, 2008

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring: Practice What You Preach

Like its title, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring doesn't conclude; it recommences. A bit of didacticism (Child learns cruelty to animals is bad!) serves as both prelude and coda. But what writer-director Kim Ki-duk extracts from this cliche the second time around feels oddly profound. That's because once you've traveled through childhood, youth, adulthood, and old age with the film's novice Buddhist monk (played by Kim himself at one point), you no longer interpret the same acts in the same way. Something inside you has changed, has shifted, and, dare we say it, has grown. Kim has always been about the internal world but this time, he forgoes having a mute lead character to underscore that point. This time, he lets the quietude emerge organically. The dialogue is as minimal as ever but Kim's unflinching acceptance of the unspeakable and his urge to convey the unsayable is less symbolic here even with this movie's parable structure and fabulist magic. To sum up what it all means about life, love and learning is bound to sound hokey. That's generally the case with a Kim movie which may explain why he likes to keep his characters so effectively quiet if they talk at all.

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