Spring, Summer, Fall Winter and Spring (South Korea-2003)
by, Anandu M Das (2010-14 electronics)
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter and Spring aka “Bom yeoreum gaeul gyeoul geurigo bom” (original title) is a south korean feature film written & directed by Ki-Duk Kim, starring Yeong-su Oh, Ki-duk Kim & Young-min Kim in main roles. This film is said to be the masterpiece of Korean directer Ki-duk Kim. Undoubtedly we can say he is the Korean version of Adoor Gopalakrishnan. I say so because both of them makes movies for their satisfaction. Both show great social responsibility and both make use of several symbols in their films. I have never seen a director manages sex and violence so naturally in his movies as Kim-Ki do.
In this film a young boy(Child monk) lives in a small floating temple on a beautiful lake, together with an elderly master who teaches him the ways of the Buddha. Years later the boy, now a young man, experiences his sexual awakening with a girl who has come to the temple to be healed by the master. The youth runs away to the outside world but his lust turns his life into hell, so he returns to the lake temple to find spiritual enlightenment. The film moves through the life of the young boy. His life cycle is shown as 5 seasons i this film. They are Spring,Summer,Fall,Winter and Spring. Each of these seasons appears at an interval of ten or twenty years. In the last part of the movie,directer Kim-Ki appears himself as the boy.
Spring – Child Monk takes life of animals out of innocence. A child monk ties a stone to a back of fish. Same plight awaits a frog and a snake. The child monk roams the brook in search of the fish and the frog as his punishment allotted by the old monk.
Summer – Boy Monk in love learns obsession The monk is now 17 years old. To the lonely hermitage, a girl comes to convalesce. Before long, warm feelings towards the girl sprouts in the boy’s heart. Their ripple in the water turns into an act of love.
Fall – Young Monk in agony of malice The boy returns to the hermitage in the mountains as a young man in his thirties after committing a murder. The old monk whips him finding the young man attempting suicide in front of the statue of Buddha. Old monk order him to etch the Pranja-parpamitasutra, meanwhile he finds peace in his heart.
Winter – Mature Monk in days of enlightenment The monk, now in his full maturity retraces his steps to the abandoned hermitage in the mountains. A woman wearing a veil visits the hermitage with a baby. She leaves her baby behind and runs away.
And then spring – Another child monk : cycle of four seasons The old monk living with another child monk is having a peaceful time in the hermitage…the circle of life keeps on.
Much of the movie is steeped in Buddhist mysticism. Each of the five episodes features a different animal, that is, a dog, a rooster, a cat, a snake and finally a turtle. For each season, Kim Ki-duk observes the change of weather and the relationship of man with nature. The film emphasizes the power of meditation and, in the episode concerning the murderer who seeks enlightenment, the need to perform a sutra to cleanse the heart of all jealousy and anger.
After watching this movie i had tremendous interest in finding the meaning of symbols used by Kim-Ki in this movie. Eventhough one can guess some if they are totally involved in the film,there are still complications. I list some of the symbols and their meanings i have read below.
THE HUT Representing the self. All the possessions and shelter needed is on the floating hut. When the young man can no longer live at peace and comfort in the hut then bad things transpire. He never commits lustful acts in the hut. When we seek happiness outside ourselves, we are never truly content.
THE DOORS The doors by the lakeside and in the hut are symbolic rather than prescriptive. The fact there are no walls means their use is not forced but elected. They represent morality and discipline. Morality is not defined by a higher power but by society and the self. By adopting the constraints the doors engender, self-discipline is attained. As soon as the young man transgresses these self-imposed boundaries, to sneak across to the young woman, then disaster follows.
THE DEAD ANIMALS The Master allows the young boy to let the animals die. He does not become an all powerful father figure, cleaning up after him, but allows him to make mistakes and suffer the consequences. Buddhism does not have a higher power but rather promotes self-awareness.
THE MILLSTONE AND BUDDHA Represent the twin stones of regret for killing the fish and the snake. What you do unto others, you do unto yourself. He has carried that karma around with him all his life until he transcends them both, carrying them to the top of the hill, near heaven. Here he cuts himself free and attains redemption through struggle.
THE MASTER Is a great teacher, but does not lecture. Hardly a word is spoken, but lessons are learned. A good teacher points the way for a student to discover self-evident knowledge for themselves.
THE MOTHER The veil, representing guilt and shame are ultimately the cause of her downfall. Hiding from the outside world can bring about ruin.
THE YOUNG BOY Both at the beginning and the end, represents us. A good life is attained not by the absence of bad thoughts, but rather by their mastery, so they have no hold over us. We choose our behaviour rather than it choose us. The new boy is not born without sin, but rather must walk his own path to divinity. The same actor playing the young boy show the eternal cycle of the human soul.
THE SEASONS The endless cycle of birth, growth and death.
This film is class example of technical and scriptwise perfection for sure. Movie lovers should never miss this one.
IMDB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0374546/