Burning ★★★★½

Legendary Japanese author Haruki Murakami may be credited with writing the short story director Lee Chang-dong’s long awaited new film is based upon, but Burning doesn’t feel like it was torn straight from the pages of the author’s work, so much as it takes the bare bones of his ideas to create something altogether more enigmatic. Loosely based on Murakami’s 1983 story Barn Burning, Chang-dong (working with co-writer Oh Jung-mi) has crafted the rare adaptation that heightens the undercurrent of mystery from the source material, resulting in an atmospheric anti-thriller that’s engrossing even as you become aware no concrete resolutions will be offered to the audience.

Murakami’s short story is deceptively simple, whereas the film is the opposite; distracting with the elusive plot mechanics carried over from the source material, which all but disguise a singular character study all of the director’s own creation. The lead character, Lee Jong-su, isn’t a particularly likeable figure, and the people he becomes obsessed with aren’t altogether trustworthy either - which makes Chang-dong’s ability to enrapture us by investigating the hidden complexities of their lives all the more remarkable. Using a short, vaguely mysterious story as his inspiration, the director has created one of the year’s most enrapturing films, successfully immersing us in the mysterious lives of characters who would be more overtly repellent in the hands of any other filmmaker.

Full review on The Digital Fix

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Alistair Ryder liked this review