Burning ★★★★½

This review contains a few implications concerning the story/ending of this film and my perception of it (I don’t reveal anything but read at your own risk):

The more I think about Burning the more I like it (the rating may go up half a star by the end of the day). My first reaction after the credits rolled, not unlike to my girlfriend’s, was disappointment. I expected something different and I initially wanted closure to the story and for the characters I spent the last two and a half hours with. But after intensively thinking about it and discussing what we just saw I realised that the ending was very fitting (if not perfect) for this film.

Burning is a poetic piece of art, a film with an indescribable visual beauty and power created by the flawless direction of Lee Chang-dong and the impeccable cinematography of Hong Kyung-pyo. The imagery of this film still lingers in my head. The film feels fundamentally realistic yet there is this mysterious, I dare to say at times even Lynchian (the dance scene) core element shrouding it which propels it to a whole other level. And that is one of Burning’s greatest strengths: You never know whether to trust any of the characters, you’re always wondering what is going on and what is going to happen next. The tension is slowly building up and especially during the second half after the main incident occurred it is at times nearly unbearable. Yet there is always a brief relieving moment afterwards.

As the film steered towards its ending and the film’s big mystery became seemingly apparent I was slightly disappointed due to its simplicity and the fact that several other outcomes were implied from the beginning on. However, the resolution does not turn out to be as simple as initially thought. We never actually see any of the implied actions. Was it all a ruse? The only things that convince us of these actions are our main protagonist’s findings and discoveries. The audience is limited to Jong-su’s view and perception but is he even trustworthy by the end of the film/at all? We can never be sure and that is what makes this film great.

Before I forget to mention it, the three main characters were brilliantly portrayed by Yoo Ah-in, Jun Jong-seo and Steven Yeun. Kudos to everyone involved. I'm really glad I got to see this on the big screen.

Ultimately, this film is certainly not for everybody but it is something truly unique and an always engaging, ethereally beautiful and metaphorical mystery drama with subtly superb performances.

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