Patrick Jensen’s review published on Letterboxd:
The last couple of days have been rather good. For one, the Danish men's national handball team finally won the World Cup for the first time in its history. And two, it was my birthday yesterday, and my older siblings and I went to the theatre and watched Lee Chang-dong's Burning. I had read a lot of reviews here on Letterboxd building up some hype for me personally, but I was still not sure what to expect from this. But, what I got was far more than I could anticipate.
For starters, this film is masterfully shot. The use of handheld cameras to convey uncertainty; the long takes and tracking shots worked brilliantly to create a sense of suspense and intimacy throughout the film's runtime, and the tilted angles were used to expertly show a sense of awkwardness to give the film some levity. The one feeling that stands out the most for me, though, is the sense of uncertainty. A feeling that persists throughout the entire film, as you can never truly be sure of any the characters' entire personalities and traits. Lee Chang-dong does a truly magnificent with his direction here, and I am only excited to check out the rest of his filmography from now on.
The one thing that has kept me thinking about this film for a long time after watching it is the characters. One thing that I absolutely love this film for is that it shows us what is seemingly a rather straightforward love triangle. I mean, it even alludes to one of the classic love triangles in American literature from The Great Gatsby. But, just like Jong-su discovers more about his beloved Hae-mi and their mutual friend Ben, we slowly see that not everything is as it should be with Jong-su. We mostly see him as this clumsy, socially-awkward goofball, (kind of like an intelligent Andy Dwyer from Parks and Recreation) even though we are given subtle hints of foreshadowing towards his eventual fate. The story is sprinkled with many details that leaves the audience with many ways to interpret the film's central conflicts. There might not be a clear answer, but the journey is nonetheless a truly satisfying one.
Burning is a cinematic gem of the highest order. I know I said Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse was my favorite film of the year, but Burning has done everything right to earn that title now. I highly recommend you watch this. Even if slow-burn thrillers might not be your thing.