elías’s review published on Letterboxd:
This will be the last time I rewatch Burning for the foreseeable future, I needed one last taste to see if my understanding and appreciation for it held up on consecutive watches. Personally, the film doesn't just hold up, it surpasses its conceived appreciation from me on a third watch.
I have to recognize that Lee Chang-dong managed to mold together a narrative that unravels itself not just while watching it, but while looming over it long after the story concluded. Leaving a lasting mark in the mind of a viewer like myself to constantly think of the moments that occurred. More so than any other film from this year that I've seen (which I will admit, hasn't been many), Burning stands on its own as a feature that will likely be remembered for the years to come. This is only my perspective on the matter, so take that as it may.
The story itself feels universal, in regards to the ideas surrounding personal perspectives. The protagonist of the story leads us into such perplexing turn of events, with Lee Chang-dong luring the audience to see the world through his eyes. Addressing this is key in mentioning the film because it's what pushes the narrative to many extreme lengths with consideration on the situations the characters placed themselves on. That being said, this also targets a particular challenge for the audience that intelligently written films can only do. How does one perceive the events of the film? Are we to believe one thing or another? I mention this because most of the discussions I have had regarding this film always fall back to this universal idea of perception, and on this particular rewatch, I was able to gather what the film fully accomplished, to have us discussing at length our conceived understandings of the film itself, essentially like the main character having to understand his conceived ideas of the world around him.
This is only a fraction of what the film accomplishes positively, but it became a larger idea once I was able to notice. And I consider it to be the thematic element that ties this film together, both within the story, and outside of it. It's kind of magnificent to think about.
This is without a doubt a film that doesn't just rely on this particular idea to support itself, as one is able to pinpoint the film's targetted notions of economic issues, youth living through this time in South Korea and what it does to their actions and how they look to those who have it a different; or perhaps preferable, lifestyle. The antagonistic environment that the world has set itself upon throughout these years, coming to fruition in the lives of the characters, as seen exclusively through the motives of Jong-su throughout the story. Many more issues are certainly addressed, and none feel needlessly placed. Instead, the narrative flows together to incorporate all of these ideas in a meticulously exemplary presentation that satisfies through and through. With fascinatingly nuanced characters, a story which fulfills an intrigue that lasts all throughout its runtime, and a visually stimulating showcase courtesy of its gorgeous cinematography.
Is Burning a perfect film? I'm not so sure. I'm only speaking from my mind in regards to my adoration for this feature. There is so much to gather, and I have noticed it as such from the countless positively driven conversations I have had surrounding this film.
Lee Chang-dong managed to encapsulate a portrayal of life in a moment with such bravura. If sometime soon, I find a film more deserving to be the film of the year, then I think cinema is most certainly in good shape.