Meditative coming-of-age drama by Korean director Kim Ki-duk. The film, which is divided into five sections to reperesent the stages of a man's life, is set entirely on and around a remote mountain lake where a tiny Buddhist monastery floats on a raft amidst the breathtakingly beautiful landscape. Here an old Buddhist monk (Oh Young-Su) instructs his young child apprentice (Kim Jong-Ho) in Buddhist philosophy and shows him how to live in harmony with nature. But as the boy grows older, he becomes consumed by guilt, jealousy and sexual longing, and leaves the monastery to pursue his worldy desires. However, he eventually returns, exhausted and drained by his experiences, and (now played by the director, Kim Ki-duk) slowly matures and rebuilds himself to become a teacher himself. The film won the Audience Award at the 2003 San Sebastian film festival, among numerous other international awards.
Working miracles with only a single set and a handful of characters, Korean director Kim Ki-Duk creates a wise little gem of a movie. As the title suggests, the action takes place in five distinct episodes, but sometimes many years separate the seasons. The setting is a floating monastery in a pristine mountain lake, where an elderly monk teaches a boy the lessons of life--although when the boy grows to manhood, he inevitably must learn a few hard lessons for himself. By the time the story reaches its final sections, you realize you have witnessed the arc of existence--not one person's life, but everyone's. It's as enchanting as a Buddhist fable, but it's not precious; Kim (maker of the notorious The Isle
) consistently surprises you with a sex scene or an explosion of black comedy; he also vividly acts in the Winter segment, when the lake around the monastery eerily freezes. --Robert Horton