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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring

Now what does these seasons remind us? Spring reminds me of the blossoming beauty of mother nature, Summer remains be about a lonely village street and some somber moments of life, the falling autumn leaves remind me about the philosophies of life and death , and winter reminds me about a child's grin, joy and festivity. Together they remind me a beautiful phrase from a long forgotten poem. Kim Ki-Duk's 2004 movie and his masterpiece Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter... and Spring (Korean- Bom yeoreum gaeul gyeoul geurigo bom) reminded me of something else, that if all worlds a stage in which we act, then these seasons are the backdrops that mother nature keeps changing.Accompanying us throughout the drama called the cycle of life. Spring, Summer.. is a a simple. spiritual, spellbinding tale about growing up from innocence to sagacity.The five seasons in the title depict the different stages in the life of a Buddhist monk, implicitly referring to all lives of humanity.

The season is Spring and the place is filled with the sight of blossoming flowers and dense green vegetation.The screen opens to a small, floating Buddhist monastery, in the waters on a isolated lake surrounded by nothing but serene forested mountains. We are introduced to the two main characters, an old Buddhist monk and his young apprentice. The young boy who is nearly 8-10 years old is is learning the ways of Buddhism. Their lives are filled with prayer,mediation and total surrender to god, far away from the cries and desires of humanity. On an unusual day the master observes the kid torturing a fish, frog and a snake by tying heavy stones to their heads. The next morning the master ties a heavy stone to the kids back and offers to remove them only when the kid frees all the tortured animals from their burden, and also hints that if any of the animal dies of pain then he has to "carry the stone in his heart forever". To the kids dismay the snake and the fish die out of pain. the spring season ends with the huge cry of the kid upon seeing what he has done to the snake, thereby learning an incredible lesson to shed love on all beings.

The season is Summer and the air is filled with the warmth and clarity of the sun.The young kid is now a charming young Buddhist monk in his late teens.When a sick and lovely teenage girl arrives at the monastery for treatment, young monk is experiencing a first-crush, a race in his hormones. For the first time he has encountered the outside world , and he wants to taste it. Soon their age makes them vulnerable and he falls prey to his emotions. The two fall in love and have sex, a number of times.When the master finds their out their act, he advises the young monk that lust leads to desire, and desire opens door to more sinister impulses. And asks the girl to leave. The young monk who is not able to bear her departure abandons the master land eaves the monastery in search of her and the "real world". The summer ends with the departure of the young monk who is ought to learn some harsh lessons from the real world.

The season is Autumn and the place is filled with the beautifully colored leaves and the shedding trees.The old monk remains as the sole occupant of the monastery. the young monk who left years back returns to the monastery. We learn that he is now a wanted fugitive in the hands of the law for killing his wife for infidelity(the same girl whom he fell in love with). He seems to be tortured by the hands of the "real" life. He has lost the charm of a boy and that of a monk, he is now filled with rage and anger. He tries to kill himself, and when the master discovers it, he beats him ruthlessly orders him to carve ancient symbols on the monastery deck. The wood carving acts as a treatment for the raged mind, he sheds out all the anger in his mind by ruthlessly carving symbols using the stained knife, peace settles in him. And finally detectives arrive and arrest him for the crime. After a "final" goodbye with the master the young monks leaves for prison.Autumn ends with the master knowing his end and performing a suicide ritual, and meditates as he is suffocated and burned to death.

The season is Winter and it has frozen the lake with Ice, the mystic winter and the moody clouds fill up the air.The young monk who left for prison now returns as a middle age adult monk. he soon finds that the master has left, leaving behind the monastery and his position for his apprentice to occupy. The adult monk gets through all the ancient journals and prepares himself physically and mentally. Soon a woman with her face wrapped with a shall arrives there with an infant boy. She abandons her baby to the monk and tries to flee in the middle of the night, but drowns and dies in the middle of the frozen lake. When the monk uncovers her face, he finds something deeply disturbing or enlightening and it makes him tie the old rock to his back and climb the nearest peak. He undergoes huge amount of pain and torture as he climbs.He erects a Buddha statue on the peak. And finally the winter comes to an end with the monk trenchantly meditating on the summit.

when again as the Spring returns, we find the same floating Buddhist monastery amidst the sight of blossoming flowers and dense green vegetation.The adult monk is the new master and the abandoned boy is the new apprentice,the cycle continues, with new people getting the same old roles thereby hinting the viewers that it shall go on for years. In his turn the kid is found torturing a fish, frog and a snake by forcing stones into their mouth. He is happy to see them suffer in pain, just like his predecessor(the new master) was. And finally spring comes to an end with the sight of the Buddha statue nonchalantly observing the happenings from the peak.


As the film ended i was tied to my seat, it looked like i was in deep meditation for the past two hours. An intriguing experience which we rarely experience in cinema, transporting me to a different reality altogether. The way the cinema portrays the beauty of various seasons will stay in ones mind for long time. Mutability of life and the desire for inner peace which the film portrays have universal implications. It is a magical fable which conveys Buddhist philosophies in the most spiritual and persuasive form. With very minimal dialouges , the calmness of the movie intrigues deep into the viewer. The usage of Buddhist chants add to the ambiance that the movie has created. And the night when we were done with the movie, we found a frog in the closet. My usual reaction would be- just flush it out, but i just couldn't say that. I felt something deeply moving, and we decided not to disturb and to let it be. I didn't want to carry a stone in the heart for the rest of my life.The frog was saved, and for sure a lesson was learned. I could feel the tiny ripples that the movies has created within me, I was humbled .And that is what they call the power of good cinema.

Do check the comments, for some interesting counter views and discussion about regional movies by Raj.

For more info visit
Spring, Summer - Trailer
Kim Ki-Duk

18 comments:

My Musings said...

An intriguing experience which we rarely experience in cinema, transporting me to a different reality altogether. Beautifully penned Vignesh!

Its quite true that movies have that power, Have watched some good number of diff world movies, fine being a communication student, you certainly have to.. There’s one thing, have noticed about them, they deal with human emotions, the only most beautiful thing worthy enough to share with fellow beings. Dialogues are minimal, Beautiful camera shots, they describe the mood of the scene and takes the viewer into it.. A soothing low profile background music, a poignant story line, actors who turn into characters.. What more can a viewer needs to get arrested in the articulation of a story! We fail miserably in that, we greatly believe in Brahmanndam! I really dunno what the hell we mean by it!

Through Seasons, the story is told poetically, the change of seasons to the different phases in the protagonist life, and life as a series and cycle…

And to tell you something, your narration was engagingly haunting!!!

CHEERS!!!!

Anu said...

Amazing review. On reading your post I wanted to rent that movie immeadiately. Though I wish that the cycle was broken in the movie. Adding this also to my list of to watch movies

umeshkarthy said...

i want to know the source of your choice of movies... IMDB?

Vignesh said...

@ Barath

Good Movies are equally in par with a good novel...it can have a long term effect on our lives. And our movies? U call them movies? better call them as dog shit:).. not that i am peevish but that is the ground reality, and as a society we are inferior when it comes to making good cinema..

@ Anu

Thanks. and soon add it to ur unforgettable movies list:) Added a link to the trailer... do chk it

@umesh

Imdb?? not that simple. A bit of research helps. First getting to know about good movies and directors through books, then research in the net. anyway a good movie reaches u jus like a good book does!!

Raj said...

Hi Vignesh,
"U call them movies? better call them as dog shit:).. not that i am peevish but that is the ground reality, and as a society we are inferior when it comes to making good cinema.."

Have you watched regional movies of the past and a few good once in the present?. For instance, lets go back to the movies of the 80's in Malayalam. Why don't you watch it and come to a conclusion.

80's were a golden period as far as regional movies where concerned. Directors such as Padmarajan, Aravindan, Bharathan, Hari-haran , Balumahendra all adopted a middle stream bringing the common man back to the cinema hall. Padmarajan is a rarity just like Majid Majidi. If majid majidi could give back to back masterpieces ( 3 of them Colours of Paradise, Children of heaven and Baran"), where would you put Padmarajan?. His Thoovanathumbigal ("Butterflies in the spraying rain") is one of the best screen play in a movie i have ever seen. The dual life we all live is portrayed by Mohanlal and is to remain his finest performance ever.

I am not a chest thumbing regional movie fanatic who is trying to say that regional movies are way superior than the rest of the world, but im trying to say that we are not far behind. As one who had reasonable exposure to world movies, watching stanley kuberick, Scorcesses, Oliver stone, Fernando Meirelles , Jean-Pierre Jeunet what we may lack is the visual effects, we hell cant make a movie like Dr.StrangeLove, Attonement, or a 2001 space odessey, but when it comes to making movies like Cinema Paradeso, Road back home or Baran we are closely behind.

Why dont you start a journey as you did with your books and start digging regional movies from malayalam, tamil and Bengali?. And for heavens sake dont make pre-concluded statements such as calling a society inferior in making good cinema. I could see a seed sown for transformation to a critic here. As some one said "A critic is like a eunuch in a harem. He sees whats being done and he can criticize the technique, but he cant do it himself".

Its for you decide what you want to become and how you want to see movies. But that doesnt mean that fellow regional movie makers are inferior?. What you do to watch movies is to pick up is the best of the breed and call it superior , however there are countless junk that lies unwatched in korean movies and the same every where in the world?. I could be reached at raj@i-raj.org and at my blog www.i-raj.org for any more further comments or a discussion.

Finally, no offense meant.

Cheers
Raj

Vignesh said...

To be frank with you, i really wanted to offend your statement, i was actually searching for points to make my stance more concrete. But finally i was silenced. I totally agree with you that i am ignorant of best Indian movies, i have not yet seen the highly praised movies form kerela or bengal. So i was really biased,that i agree with that, But

Being grown up with the artificiality of Indian cinema for more than 22 years, my encounter with the cinemas of the world made me wonder for days that "Can movies of such intensity and sensibilities can ever be made?". It took time for me to comprehend with them. And when i mean dog shit obviously i dont mean the ones you have mentioned but the ones that go as our representatives to the world, the great-indian-masala-movies. And i am against them, i detest them to the core.

Agreed that good movies are being made in India, but are we frequent in delivering them?. In the last decade only 5 or 6 movies(in tamil) are noteworthy.When tiny nations like Turkey and Iran can make movies of extreme emotional calibre, and bring forward their culture, Why not us. We live a more sensible and emotional life. I dont remember any indian movie being shortlisted for Cannes,even Venice, Berlin film festivasl. And that is the highest honour that a movie can get in an international stage, not even a single Indian film is in the shortlist; year after year(also cannes can not be compared with oscars, you know that @ cannes be it mexican,italian, or even African films- only real stuff matters) my question remains when are we going to make a movie that wins a golden palm @ Cannes? And that day my dream would come true
When i write i write out of this little frustration, i write boz i want my culture and my society being portrayed in its original form. I write with the wish that someday a kid in korea will speak about an indian movie and its culture the same way i speak about theirs. I write out out of my dream.

Being brought up in the 90's i had little chance to watch the great movies of the eighties, But i still love Balu mahendra, i believe his movies are in par with any other BEST of world cinema.My worry is the people who take the baton forward are very less. Ppl are inspired by the wrong ones. Also if i would get a chance for watching Padmarajan, Aravindan, Bharathan, Hariharan i would love to do so.And really thanks for reminding me, i defenitely will make an effort. And my wish is to write about an Indian film on my blog, hope it happens soon.

And real thanks for sending across the mail, i was in a rage, and now i feel soothed. I was all that neutral, now i am aiming for the same. thanks for reminding me, else i would have ended up being more ruthless:). Yes we have to a motherly attitute when we speak about our own films, else that will stop even the slightest growth. I totally agree with you point of LOOKING AT THE POSITIVES. Real thanks for that!!

My Musings said...

barathwillbeYeah! That was an interesting note,,

I really don’t know, there are indeed some different and classical movie makers, we just cannot deny them, but all in all, a typical Indian movie abroad means the junk filled Bollywood (minus the exceptions, if there are any )

Good of you, Raj, To refer this movie, Thoovanathumbigal, Not watched many movies in Malayalam, Being grown up with my friends from kerala, happened to watch a very good number of movies, And Vignesh, buddy! You shouldn’t miss the movie,

The story in nutshell- The protagonist leads a typical boy’s life and how his life changes after his meeting with a prostitute (played by sumalatha). This is about the unexplainable yet beautiful relationship b/w them)

Even Marupadiyum of BaaluMahendra has it all, how a middle class house-wife life changes when husband walks out on her..

Vignesh, it’s high time, do have a go @ the regional stuff (Hey may be 1 (good one) out of every twenty/fifty dog shit  , pick up @ ur pace and do watch)

And Bengali, Do watch Dahaan, 36 Chowrangi lane, Dahaan in similar lines with the movie Priyanka, the other one about the lonely life of an elderly woman. If possible watch Khuda ke liye!!!

And thanks Raj, for reminding about this Timeless movie,” ThoovanaThumbigal” accidently happened to watch it @ my friend’s place last year! Will have an another go @ it!!!

Cheers!!!

Raj said...

Hi Vignesh,
My intention is not to hurt anyone or to offend anyone. Looking at your blog, you at times reflect my attitude towards life in general. I watch a hell a lot of movies both regional and the world movies so my intention was you to grab attention on the greats of indian movie makers and the movies.

I am not sure that you could find any where in history the # of quality films malayalam film industry churned out during the 80's.
However let me summarize why it possibly didnt reach the Canne's and another world festival venue's. Malayalam movies were shot in budget that would have equaled the air-ticket to Canne's and also its only in the 2000 that we came to know about world cinema festivals and awards. Before that it was only Oscars.

Even in that case, how many Booker prize has our indian books and authors had won?. Yet there are no dearth of amazing books and profound authors.

And finally, i am not bothered about any awards , neither should you too and enjoy what movies teaches you!!!. Some awards are are really dubious. Could you explain why Scorsese didn't get Oscar till Departed (a movie which is not his original?). And i cant yet kick out the thought that why Aishwarya rai gets invited to Cannes to chair the selection committee?. Do you have answer?

Keep on writing brother!!.

Regards
Raj

Vignesh said...

@ Raj

its great to hear from you that i reflect ur attitude.. so let us arrive at a consensus:)

Did i sound like i was very very curious @ awards?? Damn i did:). I am really not concerned bout awards, but i hope that will be a platform for the world to get to know a beautiful culture called India, Recognition is a must for any form of art. That was it, i want the world to celebrate Indian cinema, that is the true wish beneath my addiction to awards.

But i really dont care about awards if we make REAL quality cinema. And if already searching for torrents for many malayalam films, will get back after im done.

also
1)Scorsese deserved it right from TAXI DRIVER, and it was a delayed justice:(
2)Rai??? Really. God, again its only bollywood and ppl like Rai who get projected from India, maybe they thought "She was the only one"... Damn her!!
But anyway in the same jury there was Patrice Chéreau and Steven Soderbergh so lets hope justice was made that particular year!!:))

Thank u raj.

Raj said...

Being grown up with the artificiality of Indian cinema for more than 22 years, my encounter with the cinemas of the world made me wonder for days that "Can movies of such intensity and sensibilities can ever be made?".

Vignesh,
You made me wonder how many movies of class were made. I'm leaving out the Balachander and the previous era. So leaving out masterpieces such as "Aval Appadithaan" by Rudriah. So lets leave out the early 70's.

Movies by Mahendran - Uthiri Pookkal (cant forget the climax), Metti, Nenjathai Killaathai, Mullum Malaram ( didnt we kill the Rajini whom knew how to act. Move over!! This one is a timeless classic)

Movies by Bhagyaraj: Those seven days (you cant find a single wastage shot). Actually let me put it like this from Suvar illatha sithirangal to Chinna Veedu

Movies by BharathiRaaja: 16 Vayathinile(Vintage!!), Pudhiya Vaarpugal, Kizhakke Pogum Rail, Mann Vaasanai, Kadalorakkavithaigal, Mudal mariyathai (Oh! my gosh!), Alaigal Oyvathillai, Vedham Pudithu (terrific, wasnt it)

Movies by Balumahendra: Moodu pani, Veedu, Marupadiyum, Sathi leelavathi, Azhiyatha Kolangal, Julie Ganapathi (adaptation of Misery). His best was Olangal and Yathra in malayalam .Uh!, how can i forget Mundram Pirai (Those magnificent music, the vintage sunset shot of the beach, the raaja's "Vaanengum thangavinmeengal" song. Oh, i miss the 80's and the guitar)

Movies by Vishwanath: Sagara Sangamam (Salangai Ozhi), moving to telegu (Swathi muthyam, sankarabharam)

Movies by Balachander: Puthu puthu Arthangal, Unnal mudiyum thambi, sindhu bhairavi (not touching his 70's classic)

Assorted greats: Meendum oru kaathal kathai, kamal movies (Raaja parvai, etc etc, some manirathnam movies, T.Rajendran initial movies (when his lyrical grip were lost, so did his movies), Azhagi.

90's seemed to be a depression era with changing economic scenario in india, thats probably what could be attributed to the failure in delivering classics. 2000 seems to be promising, with Paruthi Veeran, Ram and now subramaniyapuram etc. Lets hope for the best.

Now if you think, i havent added malayalam, telegu, kannada movies. I am not much into Bengali movies so not sure how many classics are there. Taking a look at the movies, the list is not bad eh!

Will write about my favourite list of movies soon. You have kindled my interest in this subject. THank you friend.

posthelion said...

From Korea (as it happens)

A well written piece, like your others. Expressive, simple and never forgetting that you have a point to come to. It made me want to watch the film, but also to reflect on what the film and your frog mean in my own life. If that's critique, then it's not that of the harem.

Vignesh said...

Chris,

Thanks for ur inspiring comment, it will keep me on my toes...And please do watch the movie, and if u get a chance visit Jusan Pond whr it was filmed. Beautiful place, and have a great stay in d beautiful country..(hopefully South Korea:)))

Animated Junk said...

nice review... sounds interesting,
thanks for the info abt the movie, will queque it up in the list of much watch
n hav u seen Samsara movie?...run on same lines, with little difference,
amazin movie, inspirational,

Vignesh said...

heard bout that too, got to watch it someday... thanks 4 reminding:)

Aaarti said...

Awesome to see one more person who saw and enjoyed this movie!!!

one movie that had me enthralled, that which i have not stopped talking about!!

Vignesh said...

@aarthi

Ya once u hv watched this, it stays for a long time... Thanks 4 dropping by

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