The burning of life

It is very fortune that I could watch director Lee Chang-dong‘s movie Burning in the theatre during the period of MIFF. I have seen the trailer for the film earlier before it came out. The trailer is full of suspense and sombre atmosphere. At that time, I was curious to find out the reason why director Lee decided to shoot such a movie, and I was surprised to find that this film is an adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s short story barn burning, but the story expresses more about the social reality of Korea.

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One of the stills from Burning

The story begins with a young man named Jong-su, who aims to become a writer but actually performs odd jobs in Paju. His father, who ran the animal husbandry business, was caught up in legal trouble, forcing Jong-su to run around again in order to save his father. One day, Jong-su met with his childhood neighbour as well as classmate Hae-mi in a shopping mall and their relationship was very ambiguous during that period. Hae-mi have planned to travel to Africa, so she asked Jong-su to feed her cat Boil when she’s away. Soon after Hae-mi returned home with a man named Ben. Ben drives a Porsche, lives in a luxury apartment without job, and he looks better than Jong-su. It is very weird that Ben began to walk into the life of ordinary people Jong-su and Hae-mi and tells his new friend about his strange hobby. After a night of Jong-su ‘s party, Hae-mi seemed to vanish into thin air without informing, which was probably caused by Ben.

Like many Korean movies in recent years, Burning reflects the country’s class conflict and its concern for the meaning of personal survival. The people at the bottom are struggling to make a living, while those at the top are inclined to be weird because of their affluence. Similarly, in this social reality, their emotional requirement is hard to be satisfied. Burning obscured the boundaries of reality, dreams and creation in order to build up an enigmatic world, trying to connect the unsolved suspense presupposition with the unknowable rage of the younger generation by a “mystery” bridge. This film has class consciousness and the sense of “hunger”, which can be described as: when you forget the orange in your hand, there will be an orange in your heart; when you forget the invisible cat, the cat will appear in reality; the hunger of the poor people is the physical hunger, the hunger of the rich man is the mental hunger; the emptiness of anxiety is like a dry well, which cannot be solve by sex, alcohol and drugs; a fire to the barn of heart, the next barn will come out again.

The film sense of burning is derived from its vision and the metaphor it produced (metaphor is also mentioned from the dialogue of Ben’s cooking). More importantly, this movie uses visual efforts to stimulate the audience’s imagination, allowing the audience to complete the shaping of the film by themselves, rather than relying on simple dialogue or the straightforward plot to tell the direction of the story.

A good movie is not only to entertain the audience, but also to let the audience finish more understanding and thinking.


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