'Burning' by Lee Chang-dong Review: Captivating and visually beautiful

in film •  16 days ago

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Lee Chang-dong's Burning was met with no prior knowledge of the film. While I had heard of it for a long, long time, it was yet another film that I chose to just ignore, following my trend of simply removing trailers and reviews and articles from discovery.

I have to say, the result of not paying attention to the marketing and media posts of films have significantly increased my enjoyment of them. Perhaps that's another post for another day, though.

That said, there's a common theme among Korean films that you can almost guarantee will be featured within them: drama, some degree of crime, and some truly engaging characters. But Burning integrates all of that into its narrative alongside some truly beautiful cinematography; you'll find yourself in awe over the settings, with the smooth colours of sunsets and composition advancing the film forward.

Burning's narrative is focused around two central characters, one (Yoo Ah-in as Lee Jong-su) seemingly obsessed with one that has gone missing with no clear indication as to where she's gone, and another: a rich, sophisticated (Steven Yeun as Ben) with a rather strange personality that seems as if something inner is being hidden, something kept well away from normal relationships that he seems to have with many other women.

What sparks in Burning -- no pun intended -- is the way that its narrative orients itself around these two characters and allows the possibilities of just what happened to the female (Jeon Jong-seo as Shin Hae-mi) be concluded by the viewer. There's never a definite answer, but a series of clues that result in potentially numerous options throughout the film. You could conclude that Ben is a strange killer that jumps from woman to woman, keeping parts of their belongings as trophies; or that Ben is a bit of a fucked up personality that purposely targets lower-classed females to joke about with his upper-classed friends.

The contrast between two relatively fucked up scenarios results in the question of morality arising, and whether our main protagonist is taking drastic actions attempting to discover the truth. Perhaps Ben is totally innocent, and Lee Jong-su is just taking on this stalker-like mentality as he roams around, following Ben and attempting to find the whereabouts of a woman that perhaps doesn't even want to be found, especially by him.

Burning is a beautiful film, but with a very blatant dark overtone, as the truth becomes what the viewer makes it, and the conclusion is wrapped in a thick layer of dark events that have you really wanting more answers.

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Great review! I think there is a dark undertone in all Korean movies but it doesn't make them less great.
You might be right about trailers and stuff, perhaps the future is in misleading marketing where all of these things won't reveal too much about the movie.

Good review, direct to my list.

I have to say, the result of not paying attention to the marketing and media posts of films have significantly increased my enjoyment of them.

Yes, I have also noticed that, sometimes it is best to simply watch the movie.

Cheers!

Best movie of the year for me. Had no idea it was based on a Murakami story until after the fact, but it made total sense as one and the first time someone got him down cinematically.

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I actually have no idea it was based on a story of his until just now! I can definitely see it. What others did you see recently or last year that you could recommend? Me and @irial have been slightly slacking on the film side of things as of late. Would love to hear of what you've seen that we could check out.