Film review by Colin Fraser


spring summer...
A young monk learns about the cycle of life from his teacher on a remote lake in the mountains of Korea. score

moviereview rates films from
1 (unwatchable) to 5 (unmissable)
Oh Young su, Kim Ki-duk Kim Young-min

Kim Ki-duk

Kim Ki-duk

Korea (subtitles)

Rating / Running Time
MA / 105 minutes

Australian Release
September 2004

Official Site

(c) moviereview 2005
ABN 72 775 390 361

In contrast to a seriously clunky title, Spring Summer Winter Autumn… and Spring is a delicate, haunting composition. As you might expect, Kim Ki-Duk’s film is an episodic narrative that deals with seasonal change of life and rebirth; here illustrated by a young Buddhist monk and his master in a remote corner of Korea. Although they spend their days isolated in a mountainous region, they are not immune to the cycles of growth and decay or the longing, suffering and passion that take hold of us all. A different story is revealed against each season: the boy’s loss of innocence, his sexual awakening as a young man, murderous jealousy, redemption and, finally, enlightenment. This is quite an exceptional work that, despite its languid pace, inward emotion and relative silence leaves a lasting impression.

Kim allows us to see his character’s without masking them in distracting layers of conversation or music – it’s an exercise in Zen filmmaking (and a remarkable departure from gory splat-fests that fill his CV), distinguished by lasting scenes of tremendous beauty and warmth. Cinematographer Baek Dong-Hyun said that to “film four seasons in a movie is a level of work that should be done by masters”. That may be so, but his labour has shaped the kind of canvas so exquisitely drawn that a viewer nearly falls into it, so visually arresting is his artistry. Resurfacing is done with great reluctance.

Spring Summer Winter Autumn… and Spring is a rewarding, poetic meditation on the cycle of life. It’s the kind of film that only comes around once a season, and should not be missed.