Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring is a 2003 South Korean film about a Buddhist monastery that floats on a lake in a pristine forest. The story is about the life of a Buddhist monk as he passes through the seasons of his life, from childhood to old age.
The movie was directed by Kim Ki-duk, and stars Su Oh-yeong, Kim Young-min, Seo Jae-kyung, and Kim Jong-ho. The director himself appears as the man in the last stage of life. The quiet, contemplative film marked a significant change from his previous works, which were often criticized for excessive violence and misogyny.
‘Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring ‘ is his most stunning, sublime film till date. In an age of technology, special effects, high adventure, action upon action scenes, it is an enjoyable respite to view this Korean film of aesthetic simplicity.
This Korean film depicts the life in a small monastery located in the middle of a lake, framed with high mountains covered in trees & their lives an adult monk and a young boy. The adult monk is teaching the young boy the ways of Buddha, and the film progresses through different seasons and different stages of their lives. …..Each season represents a crucial state in the monk’s life, as well as the cyclical nature of life. The film is Buddhist, but it is also universal. It takes place within and around a small house floating on a small raft on a small lake, and within that compass, it contains life, faith, growth, love, jealousy, hate, cruelty, mystery, redemption … and nature
This film is absolutely beautiful, and I’m not just talking about the cinematography. It’s so graceful and on the surface it’s a simple film because there isn’t much dialogue and we never see any part of the world outside this monastery. Yet it’s so deceptive, because despite it’s apparent limitations it explores concepts like death, rebirth, innocence, guilt, love, lust. The whole complexity of life is very symbolism and it drips in a metaphor and allusions and there’s just so much to ponder and contemplate. I watched it a couple of days back and I’m still thinking about some of the scenes and what the meaning was. This isn’t just a movie for entertaining; this can nourish the soul too.
When I watched it I was wrapped up in the gorgeous scenery, and then the story crept up on me and even though the pace was gentle it still felt tense and I was hanging on my seat to find out what happened next. The music really adds to the atmosphere as well, and when it’s punctuated by silence it feels deliberate. This is just an expertly crafted movie and the depth is handled with such delicate grace that you don’t even realize it’s there until you find yourself actively thinking about what you’ve just seen, and you’re trying to find the meaning in it.
Just looking the scene after scene, season after season, the joy of visual depiction is marvelous, and if you are slightly soft on spirituality and philosophy. There’s so much you can take from this film, it’s simply a work of art. That feels the only apt way I can describe it and you could find it more. One of the first things I noticed about Spring Summer was its pace – the cuts between shots are much slower than we’re used to, especially the Korean films. In general and added to this, the lack of dialogue and, often, lack of music, plus some incredible visual symbolism and you have one very dreamlike, very striking and very profound film.
In a word, Spring Summer Autumn Winter… and Spring is brilliant and masterpiece. If you like your movies thought-provoking, quirky and visually stunning, Spring Summer will give you all of that and more.
- Written & Directed by Kim Ki-duk
- Produced by Karl Baumgartner & Lee Seung-jae
- Casting: Oh Yeong-su, Kim Young-min, Seo Jae-kyung, Kim Jong-ho & Ha Yeo-jin
- Music by Bark Jee-woong
- Cinematography Baek Dong-hyeon
- Editing by Kim Ki-duk
- Distributed by Cineclick Asia
- Release dates: September 19, 2003 & Running time of 103 minutes
- Country: South Korea
- Language: Korean