January 24th, 2006

breaking bad

Bom yeoreum gaeul gyeoul geurigo bom

Have you seen a film Korean called 'Spring summer autumn winter and spring'? It was on BBC4 on Saturday night. I was pretty much zonked out from being on the course, and I missed the first half of it. The second half blew me away. As far as I can tell in the first half a young boy grows up as a monk at an isolated temple then falls in love, runs away and commits a murder (I think). In the part I saw he was arrested at the temple during the autumn, and then returns to the temple as an older man, in midwinter, and grows old there with a new apprentice.

This film reminded me of Tarkovsky. It is very slow, and the slowness becomes almost breathtaking. The visual style is amazing, and the music is wonderful too.

At the very end the monk climbs a mountain, with a millstone literally tied around his waist, carrying a statue of the Buddha of Compassion, I think as a penance. In the stream as he crosses it, the camera pans down, and there is a tiny minnow, with a little pebble tied with a tiny thread around its middle, and it's swimming forward with the pebble. Then a bit later you see a frog, hopping with a little stone tied to it. And later a snake pulling a rock tied it its body. I know my animal-advocate friends will disapprove, though I imagine the Director untied the animals very carefully after their starring roles. In the film it was great imagery about the unity of life.

Also a monk writes a sutra using a cat's tail as a brush, and the cat deserves a moggy Oscar for his sterling effort.