Richard Nilsen, Arizona Republic: Spring Summer Fall Winter . . . and Spring may be the antidote to Mel Gibson. It is one long, intensely beautiful Buddhist meditation on the passage of life and time, the acceptance of responsibility and the release of desire. It is as quiet as The Passion of the Christ is violent.
It is as quiet as The Passion of the Christ is violent.
It covers five seasons and five stages of life as a taciturn Buddhist monk raises his young apprentice from infancy to adulthood and teaches him the lessons of life.
We watch as the adolescent boy leaves his floating hermitage to follow the young woman he has developed a fever for, and we watch as the outside world gives our young apprentice nothing but stress and ashes.
Many years later – each season covered in the film skips a period of roughly 10 years — our apprentice returns to his lake, to pick up the meditative life after his master’s death.
Every scene in the film has the careful presentation and composition of a painting, and director Kim KiDuk keeps the film nearly as static as a painting. If the movie goes through the changing seasons, moviegoers used to American pacing may well feel they have sat in the theater for a full year.
Yet, if you can slow your emotional metabolism down to a more natural pace, the film has barely a moment that drags: It is completely involving.
There are a few odd missteps in the latter part of the film, as the monk is given “superpowers” you expect from a Hong Kong action film. Or maybe David Carradine.
They are completely unnecessary to the purport of the film and only distract the viewer, as will an extended bit of choreography with the apprentice practicing martial arts on the icecovered lake: His moves seem like a parody of Martin Sheen’s in Apocalypse Now.
Nevertheless, this South Korean movie is a balm for the soul and a reminder that even in the frenetic city, the cosmos has its own steady pendulum.
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