Burning ★★★★

“now, for us, there’s no difference between working and playing,”

i’ve thought about this movie for a couple days before i chose to review it to fully unpack my feelings about it. 

hae-mi was a perpetually lost soul— a homage to women who try to reinvent themselves to perfection by leaving their true selves and experiences behind.  she’s had plastic surgery to alter her appearance to be more appealing and she was on a constant pursuit for “big hunger” until her disappearance. she seemed not as fleshed out as the male characters. there is a purpose behind this. hae-mi was a woman who attempts to embody a male fantasy. she recalled jongsoo calling her ugly when they were children, so she modified her features to be more beautiful. and yet, he still called her a whore when she diverged from his idea of haemi. he barely knew her and yet was still blinded by his idealized view of her. my belief is that she didn’t die. she left the film as if she was exiting the room. i think that she disappeared partially because she was in debt but mainly because she was a dynamic soul constantly in search of new ways to transform herself and needed to leave everything behind to complete her transformation.

jongsoo’s obsession with haemi is because he wanted a woman who could be exactly what he wanted. his perception of her was a fantasy and gradually escalated into a complete fabrication of his mind. this was emphasized in the jarring scene where we saw a fully clothed imaginary haemi jerking him off in her bed with his back turned to her. he wanted her to please him openly, reverently, and without giving her anything in return. he couldn’t imagine her skipping town without saying goodbye so he convinced himself she was dead in order to cope. then he convinced himself that the man he envied the most was the culprit. i don’t think ben killed her. 

ben embodies everything that the impoverished jongsoo wanted to be. rich, intelligent, unfazed by strong emotion, free as a bird, friend of many. he was a bit of a snobbish asshole, but he seemed to value haemi beyond what she could offer him unlike jongsoo. he served as a stepping stone for her, a catalyst to aid her in her pursuit of her transformation. we are shown this directly when at the end he was doing another woman’s makeup— helping a new woman transform after haemi fled the nest. 

there are a lot of things that i personally am not able to grasp when it comes to the metaphors that the characters and symbols represent because i think they are uniquely korean and based upon korean culture. but i’ve had much fun speculating on what the movie’s trying to say, as it is based in ambiguity.