Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring (South Korea/Germany; 103 min.)

directed by: Ki-duk Kim
starring: Yeong-su Oh; Jong-ho Kim; Jae-kyeong Seo
Bom yeoreum gaeul gyeoul geurigo bom
Bob says: "I don’t want to give anything away, but in response to Michael’s question about the masked woman, I don’t think she was open to any kind of redemption. She was in the same state the young monk was in before the older monk had him carve the sutra.

"I loved just about everything about this film, the only exception being the apparent equation it made between the attainment of Nirvana and the ability to perform Jedi mind tricks.

"Apart from that, it was an absolute gem, and really quite universal – it’s from a Buddhist perspective, but the concepts are all very humanistic."

And in response to Diane: "I think we’re in agreement about the masked woman, Diane. I don’t know if covering one’s face out of shame like that is a Korean tradition, or whether this was something we’re to believe she thought of herself. For all I know, it’s just supposed to be symbolic. But it’s clear from the way she remains hidden, her actions, and her general attitude about herself that she was completely convinced that she was a lost cause.

"And that cat! I’ve never known a cat to be so generous. It only complained a bit when it was put to 'use.'"


Bruce says: "The United States is a religious country. I’ve heard that among all nations we are second only to Malta where religion is involved in the secular state. But are we spiritual? From South Korea, SPRING, SUMMER, FALL, WINTER... AND SPRING, full of grace and elegance, is one of the most spiritual films I’ve ever seen.

"Big painted wooden doors open slowly to reveal a beautiful lake in which there is a floating Buddhist temple. It is inhabited by an old monk who is raising a small boy. Attached to the raft part of the temple is a painted rowboat which is used for contact with land. One day the boy takes the boat and rows ashore. He is fascinated with the living creatures he finds. On a whim he decides to tie strings around a fish, frog and snake respectively and then attach the string to a rock so that when each moves it must drag the rock behind. Unbeknownst to the boy, the old monk has also managed to come to shore and is looking down on his injurious playful activity.

"In the middle of the night, the old monk ties a stone to the back of the child. In the morning he tells the boy to go ashore and free the fish, frog and snake of the stones. Should any one of the creatures have died in the night, the child is told he will carry the stone in his heart for the remainder of his life. This life lesson is learned in Spring which represents childhood.

"In Summer a wealthy woman brings her daughter to the old monk for a healing process using medicines from plants and roots, fresh air and natural beauty. Part of the beauty the young girl finds is the young man who lives with the old monk. They fall in love. The young man leaves the lake to pursue his love. This life lesson was not taught but discovered.

"Years later the young man, now in full manhood, returns to the old monk who continues his lessons in life. Painful lessons. Once again fate has the man removed from the lake. This is Fall.

"In Winter, a much older man returns to find the temple abandoned. Now a monk himself, he prepares to remain on the lake for the rest of his years. When a mysterious woman arrives with a small child, it appears that the cycle of life on the lake is repeating itself. The second Spring confirms that assumption.

"Each of the seasons has its own flavor and, in particular, its own music. The most astonishing is Winter all in which a mournful folk balled is chanted as the monk completes his life lesson with a pilgrimage.

"SPRING, SUMMER, FALL, WINTER... AND SPRING is about the relationship we have to our universe and our awareness of the gift of life. To each of us life has a slightly different meaning. Ki-duk Kim has that knowledge fully in his grasp." 5 cats

Diane says: "I also really loved this movie. Lyrical, inspirational, beautiful, full of deep meaning. Warning: if you like your movies to have dialogue and action, don't see it.

"I particularly liked that one animal was featured in each section, e.g. rooster during time of young man's emerging sexuality. (The cat with just all of its body but the head trapped in a backpack was my favorite.)

"I was so taken in by this movie that I was surprised when I saw different actors' names listed for the younger monk at different ages.

"I would say of the masked woman that she held no hope for herself--not that she would not accept redemption, but she couldn't even imagine it. Is that what you are saying, Bob?

"BTW, The Voice notes similarities with DOGVILLE in the millstone and the imaginary walls, and how director Kim uses them differently--and more subtly. I recommend that review. 5 cats"

Michael says: "Utilizing a stunning landscape to convey the majesty and importance of the world, this intriguing South Korean film follows the path of a man's life steeped with Buddhist principles. The basic lessons are there: life is a repeating cycle, what goes around comes around, and all living creatures are equally deserving of respect. The film follows one man through his life from childhood to middle-age, under the guidance of an older priest who teaches the man some hard lessons.

Surprisingly, the film also reveals something of the older priests past in the way he completes his own cycle, followed by the spiritual taking up the mantle of a new priest and new alcolyte. Tha main character must learn about respect, dignity, love, sex, violence, and responsibility, and how his actions define his future.

I did have one problem with the film that I would like to discuss with someone who has seen it. (I should have asked Bob last night!) And that is the fate of the masked woman. I won't say anything else so as not to ruin for any who haven't seen it, but I wonder what the filmmaker was saying there.

Ki-duk Kim has created a beautiful work, both visually and spiritually. This is a bold and powerful film from the writer/director of last year's disturbing THE ISLE. In fact, I think I mentioned to Bob on the way out that the film reminded me of THE ISLE in its symbolism and setting. Yet despite the harsh life lessons conveyed, much of THE ISLE'S brutality is tempered, or at least taken off-screen om SPRING, SUMMER, FALL, WINTER... AND SPRING. 4 cats"
Tom says: "Despite the fact that I could never remember the name to this film (falling
back to calling it whatever season first popped into my in mind, followed by one or two random seasons, punctuated with a 'and whatever.' Example: WINTER, SPRING, FALL AND WHATEVER.) I've been anticipating seeing it for quite awhile. Having an obsession right now with seeing every Korean film I can, teamed with the buzz surrounding this movie and the fact I was completely blown away by the excellent 3-IRON, also by Kim Ki-Duk, at Toronto.

"It did not let me down. While the film did not teach about Buddhism, it certainly did use elements of Buddhism to teach about life. Chockful of symbolism, from the animals and seasons representing the cycles of life, to the boat representing the journey to and from the spiritual and material worlds, to the inspired use of the knife which was used to take a life being turned into a tool for inner peace. I could go on for hours about the symbolism...

"Despite the fact that my upbringing made me as disdainful towards eastern religion as I've seen many people disdainful of Christianity and/or Catholicism, I adored this movie. A beautifully shot, well-paced, skillfully told fable about the forces that shape our life."

Barbara says: "SPRING, SUMMER….. was one of the most beautiful movies I have ever seen. Even if some of the nuance goes over your head, you still feel pleasure at the end. 5 Cats"