Anyone aware of Kim Ki-duk knows how obscure, metaphorical and mysterious his films are. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… And Spring is no different. If put simply, this film is a story of a little boy who eventually becomes a monk by going through all the phases of life. This film feels like it is deeply rooted in Buddhist philosophy as the main protagonist in the film is a monk who lives in a house that is floating in the centre of a lake.
The film begins with a monk staying in a house floating on a lake among the remote mountain regions of South Korea. He has a young child with him who at first feels like is there to train to become a monk. The elder monk teaches the kid about herbs, fishing and how to live life. We never get to know the names of the two characters during the course of the entire film but we get to see the relationship the two character share with each other. The monk is not hesitant to render harsh punishment to the child if he commits a mistake even by the virtue of naivety. Kim Ki-duk portrays this in a very masterful way. Spring is the season in which the childhood of the kid takes shape. It’s the time for preparation.
Then comes summer. A better time of the year, when trees bloom in all their glory, the insects roam around freely and there is ample food for everyone. Apart from being a good time, Summer is also the longest. A good thing that stays for a long time eventually dies leaving behind its traces. The death, however, is violent that ruins everything. Then remains nothing to remember and be happy about. Only in sadness lies true happiness. There is no happiness in happiness and Kim Ki-duk is aware of this. In the Summer the child grows up, he is now a teenager. His human instincts are oozing and waiting to burst out. This happens when he meets a girl of his age who visits the monk in search of a cure for her illness. These two teenagers form a beautiful relationship during the time the girl spends there.
Without giving out too much I would state that after the Summer comes fall. The leaves on the trees fall- literally. The things that bloomed at some point are obsolete and have to go. Nobody is responsible for this demise, its how time makes itself pass. The summer is the start of many beautiful things but the fall, for the lack of a better word, corrects whatever happened in Summer. In happiness lies sadness. The teenager is now a full-grown adult with all his shortcomings and strengths.
Then comes Winter- a stale time, a time to ponder, a time in which nothing happens, nothing grows, nothing dies. It’s a time of hibernation and/or longing for a better time. There is a lack of warmth- the pleasant feeling everybody needs. The winter, however, warrants nothing like that. It’s on us, what we do with that time. Do we contemplate or hide in ignorance. Do we prepare or wait?
The winter goes welcoming a time of preparation- again.
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… And Spring is a metaphor of life. This film has the potential to show what many seek- an answer to life. What I get from it is that life just is. There is no purpose associated with life. We are here taking up space, food, and love and that’s how it is. It is not supposed to be something other than that. Yes, there are moments of sadness and anguish and there are moments of happiness and joy. There are moments that sit between as well. A collection of all those moments make up a life.
The film is available to watch on YouTube. Someone generously put it there with multiple language subtitles.
That’s my naive take on this brilliant film by a master filmmaker working today. Apart from these deep philosophical topics that this film tackles beautifully, it also is a technical masterpiece. The camera work is solid, the art direction is beyond beautiful and the passion for making a film is unmatched. It does not take much to realize how difficult it must have been for the crew to make this film possible but if that’s what it takes to make a film. So be it.