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Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter... and Spring [DVD] 
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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
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It uses each season as a leap in years, and shows the significant events in his life. The film relies on its visuals rather than tons of dialogue. Not to sound corny here, but sometimes it's the things that aren't said that make the most impact. The poignant beauty of it all will leave a lasting impression, I guarantee. Don't confuse this with being a pretty film with no substance. This is deeper than most films out there, and you feel like you've come away with something. Let's put it this way: I've referred to it as beautiful four times, unintentionally too. That's got to be saying something. I could easily sum it up in just that one word!
Somewhere in a secluded spot, surrounded by tall mountains, is a beautiful little lake, and a small Buddhist monastery floats in the middle of it. Two monks live in it -- an elderly man (Oh Young-su), and a very young boy. The boy is full of the usual hijinks and mischief, but the old monk teaches him lessons that shape him as he grows to manhood.
The young boy (Kim Young-min) learns that his childish cruelty has terrible consequences, and that if he kills anything, he will carry that "stone" with him for the rest of his life. Then, as he reaches adolescence, a young girl (Ha Yeo-jin) enters their lives -- and his heart. Filled with lust and love, the boy leaves for the outside world. But the world -- and a murder -- drives him back to where he started, to find death or redemption...
"Spring" is steeped in Buddhist teachings, but in a sense those teachings are truly universal -- all the more obvious because Kim is not a Buddhist, but a Catholic. The love of life, dangers of desire, mistakes and the danger of repeating them, and the cycles of death and birth are at the core of "Spring," and it's impossible not to be touched by those ideas being woven into a simple, straightforward plot.
The seasons parallel that of the younger monk's life, taking him from childhood to old age. It's a simple idea, but a good one.Read more ›
The scenery is sheer beauty and characters are so natural it's as if they are not acting at all. But the real messages of the story are layered in as many ways as you care to look for them. Yet, while you swim in the depths of its meaning, you'll smile at the ineptness of youth, the benign cunning of an old man, and even a cat tail paint brush!
All this beauty is the framing for a story of the utmost simplicity, virtually without dialogue. In a tiny monastery for two in the middle of a small lake, live a Buddhist monk and one pupil, and as the seasons change the pupil and master progress through life.
The sparse dialogue means everything has to be acted out. Yeong-su Oh as the Old Monk is a wonderful mentor especially in the interaction with the boy monk played by Jae-kyeong Seo, who acts so naturally it is almost uncanny. Ki-duk Kim not only directs he also plays the pupil when he becomes an Adult Monk in Winter. The film creates a world in a microcosm in which we make contact with the meaning of life as the seasons change.
This is a film that grows in the mind for days after one has watched it. Ki-duk Kim gave us the dark side of human nature in the “Isle” and now he has followed that with a film of life enhancing simplicity. Truly sublime.
The strength of the movie lies in its ability to tell a tale with imagery instead of dialog. If you're one to get antsy in a Kubrick film due to his long drawn out shots, you likely will hate this movie. However, if you have patience and appreciate a director who doesn't seem to think the movie masses suffer from ADD, you'll appreciate the time the director gives you to reflect on the beauty of the story's natural settings.
The actors perform well. The door that opens at the beginning of each one of the five seasons could be interpreted as a gate, linking the two worlds: our world and their world. To go-in and go-out in the idyllic space where the hermitage floats every people must go through this gate. In fact the film is a very simple allegory about the cyclic evolving life. The beginning and the final of the film encloses a cycle. Kim takes the characters in a more mature direction than many of the other tales, and does it with a better eye than most. The hut in which the central characters reside is located in the middle of a woody mountain lake. The lake and the surrounding woods play as important characters as the actors. The changes in the lake and the land through the seasons reflect the changes within the boy monk.
If you have the patience to meditate on the wondrous imagery of Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring, check it out. If you like foreign films but can't stand reading the subtitles, check it out (not a lot of dialog in this one).
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A beautiful film, sensitively portraid, and emotional at the end,, stunning music make this film one of my favoritesPublished 13 days ago by barry
Beautifully moving & thoughtful movie. Makes you consider your own choices & karmic repercussions & making amends of those choices..Published 5 months ago by Amazon Customer
I saw this film in the cinema when it first came out and loved it. Watched it again last night and wasn't disappointed. Very beautiful - moving, but with some amusing details.Published 6 months ago by Yvette Sturdy
A simple but complex Buddhist morality parable whose central character is a temple, not a person. The temple is not anchored strongly in this world. Read morePublished 6 months ago by J. L. Sievert