`Spring, Summer' is a good lift for all seasons


May 28, 2004|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN MOVIE CRITIC



South Korean director Kim Ki-duk's Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter ... and Spring is like a cool, soothing breeze in the midst of a burdensomely hot day - a reassuring reminder that life will go on, regardless of what happens today, tomorrow or whenever.

Beautifully shot on and around a bucolic Korean lake, the movie is suffused with Buddhist philosophy and stoicism, but in a way that should be accessible to audiences of all faiths. Spring, Summer values life, beauty and even human fallibility, ascribing to humanity a nobility we neglect at our own peril.

The film opens with an old monk (Oh Young-soo) living in a shack in the middle of the lake; besides meditation, his sole mission is the care of a young boy entrusted to him. The monk does not dictate to the boy, but rather lets him discover his own path. That doesn't mean, however, that he lets him get away with everything. When the boy's mischievous nature leads him to torture some small animals (tying a rock to the leg of a frog, for instance), the monk decides it's time to get a message across. So he ties a rock to the boy's leg and tells him to go rescue the animals he has tortured, less their sad fates become a stain on his soul.

The boy is too late, however; some of the creatures already have died. The monk says little more, but the lesson stays with the boy. And that's only the first of many things the youngster will learn - some well, others not so well - as he grows under the old man's tutelage.

Kim, one of the first Korean directors to have his work distributed worldwide, separates the film into distinct segments, each depicting a stage in the boy's passage into manhood. Different actors (including the director) portray him at each stage, and we watch fascinated as the boy - he's never given a name - encounters a girl for the first time (Ha Yeo-jin), takes his chances with the outside world and, finally, understands both the monk's sagacity and his own destiny.

Spring, Summer includes little action; the boy's journey is one of the spirit, and director Kim concentrates on the spiritual process of maturing, of trusting in a person's innate goodness and desire to please. In the world of this movie, moral transgressions are not ignored (there are always consequences to pay), but they are overlooked; mistakes can be forgiven, as long as knowledge and maturity continue to be compounded.

Spring, Summer ...

Starring Oh Young-soo, Kim Ki-duk, Ha Yeo-jin

Written and directed by Kim Ki-duk

Rated R (some strong sexuality)

Released by Sony Pictures Classics (In Korean with English subtitles)

Time 103 minutes

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.