Alma’s review published on Letterboxd:
Let‘s get this out of the way: Burning is a masterpiece.
One of the best experiences I had with a film. It‘s an incredibly well put-together film and each aspect shines. It‘s the fully realised vision of Lee Chang-Dong and even if you might not like it as much as other people, you can‘t deny that Burning is a piece of art on which the whole crew gave their A-game.
Let‘s first talk about a few negatives, or better put, what I consider might be reasons why not everyone will have the same experience with this film as me.
Burning is a slow-burner, and I mean really slow. You have to be in right mood to watch this and be up for little to no dialogue for various amounts of times. Most of the character traits are shown to the viewer visually and not through (unnecessairy) dialogue or voice-over narration. Some may feel disconnected from the protagonist due to this, but this approach made it more engaging for me. I was always trying to understand him and get into his head space. This also applies to the other two main characters of course. Not everyone has the same taste obviously or watches films for the same purpose and watching films also always depends on the right time, but I don‘t think one could criticize this as a piece of film making because it does so many things brilliantly. It all comes down to taste. But I‘m open to hear a different opinion on this film that might prove me wrong.
The film takes a subtle approach and leaves some things open ended. After the film ends there are still things to interpret and think about and a second watch will surely be rewarding. A film, or a piece of art in general, that makes me think about its themes and message and that makes me want to revisit it, did something very right. It‘s also much more interesting for me if there isn‘t one clear answer to everything and I love this movie even more for doing this.
I could talk all day about how much I loved everything in this movie. From the performances, the cinematography, the blocking and sometimes fincheresque-camera movement, the rare usage of the score to emphasize the moments when there is music playing in the background, the characters, their arcs, the occasional humor, the tension that comes from not being able to fully know the intentions of the characters and basically everything else.
Lee-Chang Dong directs this film with such skill, he shoots entire scenes in incredible long takes that other directors would do in multiple shots and set-ups. This also emphasized the realism this film goes for but also supports and contrasts some vaguer and unrealistic parts of the story and gives the viewer another level of coming up with answer to these questions.
I also want to talk more in detail about the performances. Yoo Ah-In isn‘t talked about as much as Steven Yeun, but undeservedly so. His performance is very subtle and the transformation he goes through in the film is pulled off magnificently. He doesn‘t change physically, rather small character traits that make him feel like a different person from the beginning. But of course, I won‘t get around not mentioning Steven Yeun. His perfomance is, oh my god, it‘s just incredible. He gives with Ethan Hawke the best male performance of 2018 and was also completely snubbed during this awards season. He embodies his character to the full extent. You sympathize with him, but also know, that there is more going on and it gives him a creepy vibe at times. There are also specific moments that Steven Yeun performs so real and believable, I‘m just gonna say: yawning. Jun Jong-seo also does a wonderful job performing but her character doesn‘t steal the spotlight like Steven Yeun and I don‘t have much else to say about her. The leads are all *brilliantly incredible* and *incredbily brilliant*.
The last thing I want to mention is, that I actually felt the slow pacing quite a bit at times. Also the film needs some time before it really starts and hooks me completely and I guess the ending was dragging a bit. But does that really matter when everything else is perfect? I don‘t think so. Pacing is something that is incredibly important while watching a film, but it doesn‘t have the same staying power as the feelings and questions leaving the cinema. I can‘t give this movie anything below a 10, it wouldn‘t be fair to the work, thought and skill everyone put into this, I‘ll say it again, masterpiece. I‘m just completely in awe of this even existing and the experience I had with it.
I don‘t think I‘ll have to say more. See this.
And because I’m contractually obligated to use the fire-emoji in this review, or else I‘m not a real Letterboxd-User, here it is: 🔥