Burning ★★★★½

Burning is likely the most impressive example I've seen of finely crafted subjectivity and uncertainty in the cinematic form. Without resorting to overt explanations or exposition, Lee Chang-dong organically builds the mystery of the film into something that doesn't lay all of it's cards on the table, which is to its total strength. At first I was grasping to uncover what the most reliable take on this story was. That was before I came to the conclusion that there are at least half a dozen ways in which the film can be interpreted, due to the totally perfect way in which information is provided, or not provided in some cases. I feel that this Burning's ability to present multiple valid truths through its delivery is a testament to how perfectly precise it is. I've seen much discussion and analysis focusing on nailing down the exact truth of the narrative, but I feel that the film's seeming attention to exploring the multiple lives we lead, as well as the fragile nature of memory stands to sabotage any exacting explanation of events.

What seals this film as something very special is the trifecta of perfect performances within. Yoo Ah-in is among the most fascinating protagonists I've seen, as he anchors the film's sense of ambiguity and unpredictability. Simply through his facial expressions alone, it's both a joy and a challenge to try and uncover any hidden piece of information through his displays of emotion. Parallel to this are Steven Yeun and Jun Jong-seo who are equally fantastic throughout. It's great to see Steven Yeun in more films most recently, as he's such a fascinating presence, whilst Jun Jong-seo provides what is the film's emotional pivot point. It's such a crucial role within the narrative, and I think she does a fantastic job. Hong Kyung-pyo cinematography is an equally important character. He floored me with his work on both The Wailing and Snowpiercer, and his eye is utilised brilliantly here. The heavy use of steadicams in many sequences increases the sense of subjectivity within any given scene, whilst also giving this sense of preciseness which solidifies this as a very purposeful film. Top to bottom, the entirely film is simply gorgeous to look at.

Burning is an amazing slow burn that is both very deliberate in its storytelling, and masterful in its execution.

Block or Report

Adam liked these reviews