Now and again a typical film from the south is highly succsessful in the homely cinema market. South Korean film director Lee Chang Dong`s"Burning" is one such film. Originally launched in 2018, it is now running in several cinema halls in Norway and getting approving reviews in the major media.
The film is not only set in South Korea with Korean speaking actors, but also deals with relevant social and cultural topics in a symbolic way. It is not the most accessible plots, but rather one that silently makes it`s way in a river of reoccurring symblic speech. The main themes seem to be selfhood, the quest for meaning, ongoing search and rejection of roots and love. Running almost two and a half hours, its main stream succsess is all the more astonishing,
The film is loosely based on a novel by Haruki Murakami called "Burning barns". The film was shown during last years Films from the South festival in November, where it won the award "Sølvspeilet (the silver mirror)". The film casts off the contrasts of a still rural life against the wild dreams and existential quests of youth. Initially there is the boy Song-Ju who is in infatuated love with the mysterious girl Hae Mi. They share thoughts about life, and their utterings are intermingled with stunning scenes of nature. And of the metropolis Seol, where they initially meet.
This bliss is no harmony, as Hae Mi has travel plans. She goes away to Africa. Song Ju takes care of her cat, awaing her return. She does return after some time. But along with her is Ben, who disturbs the relationship with Song Ju. They are always together, yet it is not clear whether they are a couple. Song Ju does not seem to know, neither do the viewers.
Ben is a more sinister character whereas Song Ju is the more naive and earnest farmer boy with a burning heart. However, the elusive love of his heart Hae Mi, seems to drift towards Ben, a cynical and detached boy. In the end the story is a classic example of juvenile love shattered in a tree ways drama. Yet the setting in a rural Korean context, with the prospect of big cities like Seol, international travel and up-rooting close by, the film is deeply existential and philosophical.
The film has been widely advertised and was launched in Norway on 22th of February. It is to be hoped that many cinema goers who usually do not frequent the Films from the South Festival, will watch this film. It has a lot to offer.
- Feven Melake