This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Chris Brown’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
I thought this might be the one. The Lee Chang-dong film that isn't a full fledged, awe inspiring, masterpiece. From the trailer, this looked like a typical thriller, albeit a very well done one. "A mysterious stranger intrudes on the lives of a young couple". Sure, it may be thrilling, but I expect more from Lee Chang-dong.
Well, this is as much of a thriller as his Green Fish was a gangster flick. And the two films share a lot in common. A rural character with traditional values being drawn in by modern Korea. And a modern Korea forcing itself on the traditional.
But there is so much to unpack here, my mind is still reeling. It's nice when you see a film that you can say "This is great" while watching it, then go and grab a coffee. But it's a special film that won't let you go long after the credits roll. Burning is a very special film.
We get a lot of social commentary from the patriarchal society to the Westernization of South Korea (Steven Yeun was brilliant casting) to justice to class, amongst many, many other things. And the "plot" itself remains absolutely compelling. But not compelling in the expected way.
Now this paragraph might be a little SPOILERY, but I have to mention what I absolutely adored about the film. I've never seen this "type" of film done this way, or really, anything even close. Essentially, and this is the SPOILER, we never see the crime. Yet, we, much like the lead, Jong-su, must decide what happened. And the Bens, Trumps and others of the world who think they can get away with anything because us little guys don't "know for sure" what they did maybe should start to reconsider. Granted, there is a reason we need proof for certain things, but we're also not fucking stupid. END SPOILERY SPOILERS.
I will be thinking of this brilliant film a lot over the next few days and I'm sure I'll revisit it often over my lifetime. I can not remember a filmmaker who has skyrocketted into my top 5 directors after such a short time since I discovered him, but Lee Chang dong makes it easy to kick those other filmmakers to the curb to make way for him. A master and a genius.