(Release Info London schedule; December 10th, 2018, Regent Street Cinema, 20:10)
"Burning" is the searing examination of an alienated young man, Jongsu (Ah-in YOO), a frustrated introvert whose already difficult life is complicated by the appearance of two people into his orbit; first, Haemi (Jong-seo JUN), a spirited woman who offers romantic possibility, and then, Ben (Steven Yeun), a wealthy and sophisticated young man she returns from a trip with. When Jongsu learns of Ben’s mysterious hobby and Haemi suddenly disappears, his confusion and obsessions begin to mount, culminating in a stunning finale.
Jongsu is a complex character. He's a man looking into a plastic greenhouse. A greenhouse, rather than a barn, came to our minds, because it's more commonly found in Korea. A greenhouse that's transparent but stained. And a man staring into an empty space of nothingness from the other side of the plastic veneer. He installes an unforgettable presence in the mind of the audience. Ben is a character possessing a mysterious charm and emotional depth. He has unique intuition and the ability to see the world in a unified sense. Haemi is Jongsu’s childhood friend who catches his heart with her free spirit. She discovers Jongsu through an audition process. She possesses both the boldness which attracts Jongsu and Ben and the innocence of a young girl. Metaphor is a concept or meaning, the worn-out greenhouse in the film is an image which goes beyond concept or meaning. It has a physical form, but it's transparent and has nothing inside. It's once made for a purpose only to be rendered useless now. It's purely cinematic in the sense that it cannot be fully explained with a concept or an idea. There are other things that transcend ideas and notions as plastic greenhouse in the film; pantomime, the cat, and Ben, too.
Unlike texts, films convey visual imagery, which itself is a mere illusion projected onto a screen by beams of light. Nonetheless, the audience take in the empty illusions, giving them a meaning and a concept of their own. This film shows such mystique that underlies cinema as a medium. The mystery that underlies the film medium reflects the mystery of our own lives. People continue to question the meaning of the world that seems to be meaningless, but the world always stays as a mystery. Despite that, some people do not give up seeking for the meaning of life. Like the way Haemi does the dance of 'The Great Hunger' in the film. All animals and objects in this universe are 'Great Hunger'. The stars in the night sky tremble because they're doing 'Fhe Dance Of The Great Hunger'. The early morning dew on leaves are the tears shed by the stars. 'The Forefathers Of Bumankind , 'The Bushmen Of The Kalahari Desert', danced all night in search of the meaning of life. Just because someone dances all night, the world would not change. But the fact that someone dances in spite of it conveys hope. Perhaps, filmmaking is not so different from doing the dance of 'The Great Hunger'.
"Burning" is based on a short story by Haruki Murakami, inspired by William Faulkner’s 1939 story 'Barn Burning'. William Faulkner's short story is about rage. Although this film is based on 'Murakami's' story, its also connected to the world of Faulkner. Faulkner's story is about a man and his rage against life and the world, and it also vividly depicts the sense of guilt that his son feels for his father’s arson. Unlike Faulkner's story, 'Murakami's' story is a story about a man who goes around burning barns for fun, an enigmatic story. As such, the way they tell their stories are quite opposite. 'Murakami's' barn is a metaphor rather than a tangible object whereas Faulkner's barn represents reality itself.
"Burning" is a one-of-a-kind Korean film noir. It's an exploration of genre conventions and the real world. The film experiments with the concept of going back in time, and searches for the meaning of true love. The audience takes a peek at the everyday lives of Jongsu, Ben, and Haemi. It's a story about anger, especially the anger that young people feel these days. It seems that today, people all over the world, regardless of their nationalities, religions, or social status, are angry for different reasons. The rage of young people is a particularly pressing problem. Young people in Korea are also having a hard time. They suffer from unemployment. They find no hope in the present and see that things will not get better in the future. Unable to identify the target at which they can direct their rage, they feel helpless. Yet the world looks as if it's becoming more sophisticated and convenient, a perfectly functioning place on the surface. To many young people, the world is becoming more like a giant puzzle. It’s somewhat like how the protagonist in 'Murakami's' story feels listless before a man whose true identity is shrouded in mystery. People who've experienced feeling average or small could understand that feeling of helplessness.
We do not come up with a good story, but rather come across it. We're going around in circles, looking for an uncharted road. Like living organisms, good stories wander around us, and if we've a discerning eye, we will finally recognize them. The story feels mysterious, but nothing really happens in it. There's something very cinematic about that mysteriousness. The gaping holes in the chain of events, the missing piece from which we can never know the truth, alludes to the mysterious world we live in now; the world in which we sense that something is wrong but cannot quite put a finger on what the problem is. The film pays attention to the realities of the various strata and to sketch the stories of young people living in modern society. Increases the level of immersion through a beautiful visual style. While giving Korean social problems like class inequality, economic stagnation and bruised masculinity a stark universal relevance, the film also probes the deeper existential hunger found in modern life. The story elegantly crafts film veils intellectual weight and sly social commentary beneath a playful noir sensibility. Pairing austerely beautiful visuals with a measured pace, "Burning" is one of the year's enigmatic best.