Burning

The first half of the film leaves enough room for interpretations that can touch upon the themes in a satisfying way. In the build-up to the turning point, we learn that Jong-su wants to be a novelist someday. But he makes ends meet through means that don't involve writing. Hae-mi is on the lookout for something she thinks can make her life more meaningful. Both are figuring out ways to cope with a sense of emptiness and the repercussions of events that have left them scarred. There are allusions to beauty standards, familial tension, and financial difficulties.

Seeing Ben from Jong-su's perspective makes us privy to the discomfort that arises from being cynical about someone when they have nothing evidently suspicious that wouldn't make the cynic look a bit like a lesser human who is just being jealous. The plot appears open-ended until Ben confesses his uncanny hobby, which makes his role in what is to follow too obvious for me to see the story through a different lens from then on. Because very little is revealed about Ben's psyche, everything that has so far been promising about the depth with which the story line could be handled crumbles in light of that one scene—at least in theory.

Just like in Murakami's stories, all the instances are not coherent in practice. But that did not completely take me out of the experience. I won't deny that I was fascinated by the camera following the actors on the outskirts of the city and the eerie yet beautiful soundtrack playing in the background. It's as if I could feel the warmth of the air transition into a chill as the twilight of dusk was setting in. At a glance, the fields seem like they could be in any part of the world ... so could Hae-mi's room. The fatigue that constantly weighs down Jong-su is all too familiar to me. Writing feels existential towards the end, when there is a compulsion to put thoughts into words to make sense of a predicament. Lee Chang-dong crafts scenes in settings that can feel too personal for some of us and stay in the recesses of our minds long after the film ends.