Burning

Burning ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

*Listening to the amazing score by Mowg as I write this review*
[Major spoilers included]

“The truth is all in your head.”

🔥After I finished watching this masterpiece at the beginning of the year I immediately felt a burning desire to watch it again, but for some reason, I didn't until yesterday. I love how things take course; unplanned and unexpected. Now I can finally write a constructive review about it. Watching it a second time made me appreciate it even more. There is something so thrilling about knowing the end of the film and still be that engaged. You begin to point out certain behaviors and hidden clues that later on play a huge part in the complexity of the story. First thing first, Burning is my first and only Lee Chang-dong watch so far. I am excited to dive into the rest of his filmography beginning with Oasis. I hear great things. But you know how one film becomes so special to you in a way you can't explain? Burning touched me beyond words. That's why I know for sure it'll always be my favorite Lee Chang-dong film, my favorite Korean film and one of my all time favorites, period.

🔥It's very poetic, very dark, very mysterious and very serious in the best way possible. I don't remember the last time I was so frightened of something that isn't there. And that's the core of the film; not giving straight answers, letting the viewers go back and forth with their conclusions. There is always something so suspicious about not showing a certain thing; whether it's a being or an answer.

"Don't think there is a tangerine here. Just forget that there isn't one. That's the key. The important thing is to think that you really want one. Then your mouth will water, and it'll really taste good."

Lee Chang-dong cleverly uses this sentence at the beginning of the film, kinda giving away the whole plot, or you can say giving us a heads up or a guide book on how to view the film. For example, Steven Spielberg's Jaws worked so well because of the perfect use of 'not showing the shark'. Which later on was used numerously in other films, but rarely does it work like it did in Jaws and The Babadook for example.

🔥In Burning the director masterfully pulled that note off with different plot points. You are told that Hae-mi has a cat, but we never see it. Later on we would see its litter and think : wait a minute, maybe the cat is real, but what if it isn't? What if all of this is going on inside Jong-su's head? So again, you go back to thinking its not real, until the cat is presented at the very end. Same thing with Ben being a killer..what if he was innocent? What if he is only a severely damaged person on the inside? But then again there were hints about him being a murderer.. like him admitting to never shedding a tear in his life, laughing when others cry, women's accessories and makeup in his bathroom, being bored in gatherings as if it is necessary work to shape a fake personality that's suitable/acceptable to others, one where he can hide and be his true self underneath, etc.. So the director keeps building up those beliefs and thoughts in your head. You are left with that, even after the film ends. We don't know if Hae-mi was in fact murdered. Maybe she committed suicide. Maybe she was so fed up with her life that she decided to end it. After all, she kept talking about how she has been lonely her whole life. She only slept with Jong-su to feel better about herself after he called her ugly when they were kids. She has no friends, her family is distant, she is all alone; the perfect target for prey, but then again, was she really murdered? It's all in your head.

🔥I wanna talk about my favorite sequence of the film (for so many reasons): the sunset sequence. Hae-mi talked about how she loves sunsets early on in the film. She would describe its beautiful changing colors and how they all harmonize with each other, she would say:

"I must be at the end of the world, I want to vanish just like that sunset".

Later on she would dance to that said sunset, in a scene that I can only describe as flawless. Jun Jong-seo is amazing here, and it's only her first film. I love hidden talents like herself. She got cast in two other films that will come out in 2020 and I can't wait! Later in the sequence the most important, most intense conversation in the film takes place between Ben and Jong-su. Ben's talk about burning greenhouses can be used as a metaphor for him killing young women. all signs lead to him being a killer but then again there is no literal or actual proof for almost anything in this film. Your mind is increasingly burning with conclusions and theories, asking yourself What is the truth? It's up to you.

🔥Jong-su was an interesting, relatable character to follow. A man who is trapped inside this imaginary cage that he can't seem to escape. Always looking up or into the distance, looking through windows, as if he is imprisoned by his own demons, thoughts and loneliness. And he is. When he spoke to Hae-mi's mother and sister about her 'imaginary' accident in the well when she was seven it was like he was describing his own feelings. He has this burning desire to be recognized, this burning anger towards society and everyone, this burning frustration of being lower in everything, this burning jealousy of Ben and others, this burning hate for his father and mother. All those emotions burning deep inside him until he breaks free from his own prison by killing Ben and lighting him up with his own lighter that he intentionally left. Just how poetic is this? Now Jong-su has become the real monster, he has become the real killer. He has accepted it. He is his own demon.

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