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A slow-burning mystery about economics, class, and sexual jealousy. And cats.
Bertaut16 February 2019
A thriller about a missing person. An allegory of class division. A study of generational alienation. A fable about modern consumerism. A dramatisation of psychological breakdown and genetically inherited rage. An analysis of socio-economic disenfranchisement. A critique of toxic masculinity and its concomitant misogyny. A condemnation of middle-class gentrification. A threnody for a traditional Korea that's slowly being replaced by faceless cosmopolitanism. An extended rib on Schrödinger's cat. Beoning is all of these. And none of them. This is a narrative fundamentally built on questions, very few of which are answered definitively.

In his first film in eight years, writer/director Chang-dong Lee begins this protean narrative as an almost high school-esque teen romance, before shifting gears into a story of sexual and economic jealousy, then morphing into the tale of a pseudo-film noir amateur sleuth, before finally allowing itself to visit the thriller territory that has lurked just outside the frame since the opening few scenes. Essentially a psychological drama about three people, although it's possible that only one of those people is real. There are also two cats. Or maybe only one cat. It's a long journey (148 minutes), and, for some, the payoff won't be worth the length of time taken to get there. Others, more used to concrete black-and-white yes-and-no narratives, will be unimpressed with how steadfastly the film refuses to yield its secrets. However, it has an undeniable ability to burrow under your skin, with Lee bestowing portentous significance upon the most inanimate of objects, only to later reveal that whilst we were trying to figure out the importance of item a, we missed the significance of item b.

Adapted by Lee and Jungmi Oh from Haruki Murakami's 1983 short story "Barn Burning", which is itself loosely inspired by William Faulkner's 1939 short story of the same name, Beoning is set in contemporary South Korea, and tells the story of aspiring novelist Lee Jong-su (Yoo Ah-in). Working as a part-time delivery man in Seoul, he encounters Shin Hae-mi (Jeon Jong-seo), who claims they went to school together, although he doesn't remember her. Telling him she will shortly be travelling to Africa, she asks him to feed her cat, Boil. He agrees, and the two have sex. Jong-su happily feeds Boil, and even though every time he comes to the apartment, the cat is nowhere to be seen, the food and water are disappearing. A few weeks later, she returns with Ben (Steven Yeun), a confidant, irritatingly polite, and extremely wealthy young man. The trio develop an odd relationship, and one evening, Jong-su admits to Ben that he loves Hae-mi, and Ben tells him about his strange hobby of burning greenhouses. A few days later, Hae-mi disappears, and Jong-su, suspecting Ben, sets out to find her.

Beoning is masterfully constructed upon a foundation of questions, only a very few of which are answered. Some of the bigger questions include, why does Jong-su not remember Hae-mi from school; what happened to Hae-mi; what does Ben do for a living; is his admission that he has never cried evidence of sociopathy; does he really burn down greenhouses? There are also a whole host of smaller mysteries running alongside - why does Hae-mi seem to rig a raffle so that Jong-su wins; what exactly did Jong-su's father do (when the film begins, he is standing trial on a vague assault charge); who is calling Jong-su's home in the middle of the night and hanging up; why does he stare at his father's knives the way he does; where is his sister; does Boil exist; is Ben's rescue cat the same cat as the never-seen Boil; did Hae-mi really fall down a well as a child? Some (or more) of these questions remain unanswered, although there are certainly clues scattered throughout.

Thematically, the film covers a plethora of issues; toxic masculinity, alpha and beta males, economics and consumerism, class, the place of women in Korean society, sexual jealousy, the death of a bucolical way of life, working-class privations, faceless capitalism, the price of success, hope, writer's block. Of course, some are more foregrounded than others, with economics in particular emphasised. For example, the film cuts from a scene of the trio at a swanky nightclub (into which Ben has ensured they could go) to a scene of Jong-su alone, mucking out the cow stable. The contrast between the lifestyles of the two men couldn't be clearer. Jong-su belongs to a generation of working-class people who will be economically worse off than their parents were at the same age, whilst the gap between the middle-class and the working class has grown wider than ever. The Korea of the film is very much a place of castes, hierarchies of privilege and social standing, with Jong-su and Ben on the opposite end of every spectrum.

The film also engages significantly with gender politics. One of the things that so captivates Jong-su about Hae-mi is her provocative behaviour. Yet later, when she dances topless outside his house, he is disgusted, telling Ben, "only a wh-re acts like that." It's a succinct summary of a societal double-standard; men can behave how they wish, but women must conform to arbitrary expectations. It could be argued that Hae-mi functions primarily to further Jong-su and Ben's arcs, and is devoid of any real agency herself. An alternative reading, however, is that she is poorly sketched as a character so as to represent a patriarchal society in which women are seen as less complex than men. For the most part, Beoning avoids didacticism on this issue, but to suggest that Hae-mi is simply a badly written character seems to me to be a very superficial interpretation of a film with great depth.

However, there is also the possibility that Hae-mi doesn't actually exist, and in this sense, the fact that she is presented in such sexualised terms is because she is literally a male's fantasy, a sexual obsession born in the disturbed mind of an unreliable narrator. The film is told exclusively from Jong-su's perspective, he is in every scene, and the narrative never shifts to another focal character or to an omniscient viewpoint. With this in mind, everything we see is filtered through his ideological outlook; if he attaches significance to an object, the audience is invited to do likewise. Lee masterfully handles this tricky structural device, placing the audience directly into the same (possibly paranoid) headspace as the character. So, for example, when Jong-su sees Ben yawning as Hae-mi is recreating a dance she learned in Kenya, the yawn becomes immensely sinister, because that's how Jong-su interprets it. In this sense, if one theorises that Hae-mi is, in fact, a figment of Jong-su's imagination - an idealisation of a beautiful woman who wants him - then Ben must also originate in Jong-su's mind, functioning as the inverse to Hae-mi; a personification of everything to which Jong-su aspires, but is unable to attain. The fact that Lee leaves this tantalising possibility on the table whilst still managing to analyse social-realist topics such as economics and class, is a testament to his extraordinary control over the material.

One of the most salient motifs, if not necessarily a theme unto itself, is that of disappearance, with references scattered throughout the film - Hae-mi notes that her childhood home is gone, as is the well she fell into; Jong-su recollects how after his mother abandoned the family, his father burnt her clothes; when Ben tells Jong-su about his greenhouse hobby, he states, "you can make it disappear as if it never even existed"; Hae-mi literally says she wants to disappear; when Jong-su asks Ben if it's possible Hae-mi has gone on another trip, Ben says, "maybe she disappeared like a puff of smoke". The most important scene in this sense is an early one. Explaining that she's learning pantomime, Hae-mi proceeds to mime peeling and eating a tangerine, telling Jong-su the trick isn't to pretend the tangerine is really there, but to "forget it doesn't exist". This challenge to perception is crucial not just in how Jong-su becomes convinced Hae-mi has met foul play despite the lack of evidence, it also provides a clue for the audience as to how best to parse the film itself.

Of course, for all that, there are a few problems. For one, it's a little too long, and there are occasions when the narrative seems somewhat desultory. I would imagine that a lot of people will also dislike the ambiguity. Personally, I loved this aspect and thought Lee handled it magnificently, but it certainly isn't for everyone. A minor issue is that as protagonists go, Jong-su is extremely passive, a character to whom things happen rather than the narrative's driving force. Again, some people will dislike this aspect, but I think it's important that Jong-su is depicted this way, especially in relation to the final scene. Of that scene, it could be seen as disappointingly familiar, something seen in any number of standard genre pieces. I disagree with that, but I can see where the criticism is coming from, as it does conform neatly to the rubric of a quotidian thriller.

All in all, I found Beoning to be a haunting film, one which I couldn't get out of head for days, and I'm keen to see it again. Lee's masterful control of tone is extraordinary, balancing a plethora of themes within a half-social-realist/half-magic-realist milieu. As good an exercise in cinematic suggestiveness as you're likely to see, Lee subtly alters mood so as to manipulate, push, prod, guide, and fool the audience. The film is such that everything on screen, every word spoken, every background detail could be important. Or not. Fiercely intelligent, deeply nuanced, complexly layered, it's a film that rewards concentration. It is, simply put, the finely crafted work of a distinct and relevant auteur.
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Burning questions
gizmomogwai4 February 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Burning, the 2018 FIPRESCI Prize-winning film from South Korea, has a mysterious quality to it, and not just because this romantic drama-thriller also belongs (perhaps most of all) to the mystery genre. Slow paced, understated, it's the kind of film that can create tension in simple moments like silence, watching, following. It appears there could be a simple, straightforward solution: Ben is a serial killer who has murdered Hae-mi, and Jong-su is putting the pieces together. But is it that simple?

1. What was the significance of Jong-su being a writer? Jong-su is trying to craft a novel; perhaps he's finding his subject as he goes. An elderly man (a career counselor?) remarks to Jong-su that protagonists are always "crazy". This may be telling the audience to ask questions about Jong-su himself. Ben also tells Hae-mi to ask Jong-su what a metaphor is. Why is that exchange in the film, and why are we being told to look for it?

2. What is the significance of Hae-mi's well story? It sows doubt in Jong-su's mind about Hae-mi's honesty. He goes back and forth trying to find out if the story is true. Is it a literal truth or does it refer to a spiritual state?

3. What is the significance of the "Great Hunger" theme? When Hae-mi describes an African sunset and her desire to disappear in it, the line is presumed to be innocent and is forgettable on first viewing. Does it provide any answers as to Hae-mi's disappearance?

4. Why does Jong-su set fire to part of a greenhouse? He's frightened of what Ben can do, but comes close to doing it himself. Is Jong-su what he is afraid of?

5. Why William Faulkner? Ask a literary expert, I don't know.

6. Why the subplot of Jong-su's father being charged with assault? This doesn't fit in anywhere into the Ben-Hae-mi plot. A red herring? A useful explanation as to Jong-su's psychology?

7. Why does Jong-su question whether Boil the cat lives only in Hae-mi's mind? He never sees Boil until at Ben's home. Is Boil a smoking gun or is he an illusion?

8. What's the significance of North Korea being within sight of the main setting and their propaganda being in earshot? A sense of place, or perhaps a sign we should look at divisions in Korean society, a Korea with both struggling youth and Great Gatsbys.

9. Why is Jong-su's military service mentioned so briefly? One wonders what we can learn from where he went, what he saw and what happened to him.

10. Why the conversation on how the Chinese are like the Americans? We're directed to think about people who put them in the centre of everything and people considerate of others. Ben is the type who puts himself in the centre; is Jong-su too?

With so many mysteries, Burning is the kind of film that demands repeated viewings and thought, a psychological mystery waiting to be decoded.
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Struggle For Salvation
Khedro6914 April 2019
Warning: Spoilers
When I come across a mysterious movie that is like a puzzle, I'd like to first gather all the pieces that are there.

  • She has left her childhood place, her whole family, she's in debt, has no friends. She's clearly escaping something, a part of herself like her past.
  • Another important thing about Haemi is the stories she tell about her childhood that are not clear whether they are real or lie since Jong Su doesn't remember them.
  • She has a cat which very much has the same quality that she has, stray.
  • The little light she gets on her wall means a lot to her.
  • Her room is really messy which signifies her messed up life.
  • "He's my one and only friend." and "He's the only person I trust.", referring to Jong Su.
  • Little Hunger (her past) - Big Hunger (Salvation)

Jong Su:
  • Everyone seems to be leaving him: mother, father, sister, Haemi, and even his calf.
  • Just like Haemi, he has problems that root in his past.
  • He's also looking for salvation (waiting in Haemi's room for light to get on the wall).
  • His care for greenhouses is perhaps because they represent his identity, the place and culture he grew up in.
  • Helping Boeling (not sure if I got the cat's name correctly) means helping Haemi to him since they basically represent the same idea.
  • Her concerns for Haemi are probably because she is the last thing remaining from his past and he's actually fighting his past trying to prove himself that he's not forsaken: he's not destined to be left by everyone.
  • His hanging jaw signifies his uncertainty and lack of confidence.

  • Confident, apparently satisfied, and most importantly a player (as he admits that).
  • The cosmetics box and the accessory drawer strengthen his claim of being a player.
  • Seeing a new girl right after Haemi goes missing, putting makeup on her face, keeping Boeling and the accessories (from his previous victims), smiling at Jong Su every time he goes to one of his gatherings, they all show that he is confident about what he does even when Jong Su becomes suspicious.
  • When he tells Jong Su that he has this habit of burning greenhouses every two months, he's not really talking about greenhouses. By greenhouse he means Haemi who is that "greenhouse really close to Jong Su."

Even though Burning is not a hard film to understand for many, I had to do quite some serious thinking to fully grasp it. At the scene when Ben is cooking for Haemi and Jung So, Lee Chang Dong gives us the key to the whole mystery: metaphor. Without it I probably couldn't realize the reasoning behind many of the actions and emotions I witnessed in the movie.

To put it all together, Haemi is a stray who is escaping her past seeking the meaning of life in a fragile, desperate condition. Her plastic surgery, her sleeping with Jong Su even though she still carries the scar he left her in childhood ("You are really ugly."), and the anecdotes she recites are all sings of a battle inside her, a struggle for salvation. Also we must keep in mind that it was Jong Su who rescued her from the bottom of the well while she was crying and looking up at the round sky and sunlight. He is like a savior angel to her who came down from the heavens (considering the circumstances). The momentary sunlight she gets on her wall every day shows how hopeless her life is. It's in fact a metaphor for Jung Su, her only hope, but when Ben comes around with everything that Jung Su isn't, she gives in to her desires: immediate escape from the past. Although it later becomes clear that she still has only one real hope ("He's the only person I trust.")

In a similar way, Jong Su has serious issues in his past and his way of fighting them is his struggle to prove himself that not everyone has to leave him. He's not confident for most of the film, but when he's left with no options but to face his problem head on, he gathers all his strengths and wipes away one of the causes of his problems. Even though he doesn't solve anything (in the way we define "solve"), he does the best he could do. By stripping and burning his cloths alongside Ben and his fancy car, he cleanses himself of everything he hates. That is when he eventually finds salvation.
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Snubbed for Oscar nomination
HamChuuuuuuu24 January 2019
I must say that this is one of that kind of movies with slow pace but great reward at the end, the three main characters are interesting (specially the girl which is lovely) and even if superficially you don't see anything particularly special, you feel curious enough to see what is going to happen with the three of them, specially when you start to see the key elements that make this movie awesome.

With a wonderful cinematography, great acting and direction, and beautifully adapted from a short story by Murakami, I still can't believe this is not nominated for the Oscar.

If you don't care if a movie is slow and for a long period of time nothing is going on, try this one because it has a deep story and the production in general is great.
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Ok look
mc138223 June 2019
Burning is a film I should really like more than I do. The cinematography is gorgeous, the thematic content is subversive and the atmosphere is suffocating. Where I feel this film falters is the characters and pacing. The film introduces Lee Jong-Su who is sometimes compelling, sometimes wasted. The film throws you into his world and doesn't really give you context for his situation. This inherently isn't a bad thing but the things they do show don't make me intrigued to find out more about him. There are certain aspects that are interesting about him but the film doesn't expand upon it enough. It's not until the second half where he gets interesting. Although this is more to do with the turn of events rather than the character himself. I wanna stress that he did have good moments but for the majority of the film, he came off as messily written. The other characters such as Shin Hae-mi and Ben had similar problems. Hae-mi seems like an interesting character on paper but she feels kinda hollow and empty. She has some fantastic moments but those are sparse.

Early in the film when Jong-Su and Hae-mi meet in the apartment, an extended scene of intimacy is included which is fine and all but the film doesn't spend enough time with these characters to justify the long scene. The scene would've been way more cathartic if the film built up their relationship a bit more. This aspect of this relationship doesn't really come back later unless we count Ben into the equation. Ben is a conflicting character for me as he is the most enigmatic and interesting character in the film. The only thing is I wish the film made his character more engaging in the first half. He just comes off as this stereotypical rich boy who you don't really care for. In the second half, the film does a U-Turn on his character and this just came out of nowhere. That's my main issue here. A lot of what happens in the film feels like what the script wanted rather than an organic conflict coming from the characters. I hate to be one of those people but I really felt the pacing in this. The film is a slow burn but the film doesn't really justify this. It just feels slow for the sake of slow. 30-40 minutes could've been cut and it would've made the film much better.

I wanna end this by saying that I did admire a lot about this film. Particularly the themes and symbolism (especially in the second half) but I just feel if the characters and pacing were stronger then we would have a phenomenal film here. As it is, it just comes off as a bit of a mess.
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The cat, the well, and the greenhouse
andrebacci-889026 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Among the most acclaimed films from 2018's Cannes festival, Lee Chang-Dong's first feature in nearly eight years came full of expectations - and boy, does it deliver. This mesmerizing character study kicks off with an unexpected encounter between protagonist Lee Jong-su, a quiet, restrained young man who tends to his father's property - located near the border with North Korea, one of the many ways in which the narrative conveys its unique sense of unease - while he battles in court over his alarming anger issues, and Shin Hae-mi, a wide-eyed, lonely girl with an unsettling penchant for pantomime, who finds herself lost, in a perennial journey to find purpose - or the Great Hunger, as she tells an amused Jong-su. As the two get to know each other again, years after Lee disregarded her in school, they engage in a surprisingly delicate and beautifully filmed encounter, whose dreamy quality he tenderly nourishes, only for Hae-mi to quickly escape, some time later, into another one of her trips. When she returns from Nairobi, the thin glimmer of light that is their relationship evaporates, replaced by an ineroxably growing tension. This is due to the introduction of Ben, the ever-smiling and mysterious man she encountered in Africa. Jong-su is visibly taken aback by his presence, and over the course of a few reunions, his uncanny wealth and excesses provide the audience with discomfort - that is, until Hae-mi suddenly vanishes. From then on, the film becomes a feast of paranoia, barely contained fury, and relentless search for the truth. Was her disappearance obvious from the start, a distant girl with nothing to hold on simply cutting all ties with her world? Or does it have something to do with the uncanny hobby Ben revealed to Lee shortly before she finds herself gone? There is nary a moment wasted throughout its long and breathtaking two and a half hours, that elevate its surreal source material to a rare kind of arthouse thriller, whose slow burning quality finally explodes in a cathartic and ultimately unavoidable ending. Bursting with memorable imagery, richly underpinned by a variety of subtexts such as class tension, misogyny, and anger, impeccably acted and miraculously directed, "Burning" reveals itself as one of the best movies of year. It is self-contained, agressive, and frantic all at once. A must-see for any fan of Murakami - and for anyone who craves a tale of loss and revenge.
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The rare film that gets its value upon reflection.
domtaylor7 February 2019
It's the rare film that gets its value upon reflection rather than during watching. It's not boring as such, but with its extremely long runtime it does generally feel slow paced and often runs the risk of being quite dull. Luckily though, the pure sense of mystery that surrounds the three core players (our protagonist included) and the film's world as a whole keeps things intriguing throughout. As the narrative progresses, however, and the core mystery of the piece arrives, things get a lot more intriguing and this intrigue lasts long after the haunting finale. That's where the film really gets its merit. None of the enigmas are definitively answered, and this leads to an extremely subtle - yet wholly rewarding - experience that allows you to draw your own conclusions of what it was actually about. The picture could be about several different things, and it all depends on the individual spectator response. This, as well as the complete lack of on-the-nose exposition, is very refreshing in today's age of cinema where nothing is left to the imagination anymore. We are not told, or even explicitly shown, anything integral to answer the core mystery and this allows you to reflect on all of the intricacies of several different scenes in order to draw your own conclusions. It really is a one of a kind experience that will leave you scrutinising for days, discovering a new narrative possibility upon every thought. Its slow pace and the sense that it's not really going anywhere might make it seem hard to get through initially, but once it's over it becomes a rich, rewarding experience. 8/10
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A little disappointing
breadandhammers7 September 2020
Wow. Didn't do it for me. Characters were bland. Story was bland. Pacing was plodding and slow. I know I'm going against the grain here, but something definitely went over my head.
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Fascinating but maybe over-rated
proud_luddite9 December 2018
Based on the short story "Barn Burning" by Haruki Murakami: in Paju, South Korea, Jong-su (Yoo Ah-in) is a young aspiring writer from a dysfunctional family doing odd jobs while also looking after the family farm nearby. He reconnects with a former classmate Hae-mi (Jeon Jong-seo) whose affections later turn to the very rich Ben (Steven Yuen). Ben's unusual character take everyone down a mysterious path.

At two and a half hours, the film is perhaps too long especially as the first half begins to get dull at a certain point. This thankfully changes when the story and its energy get very mysterious. Here is where the film earns many points for its uniqueness and its subtle ways to lure the viewer into its web. In a good way, this segment is rarely frightening but always intriguing. Also, class difference plays a major role but without being obviously so.

The audience is teased overall with only a minimal amount of information - just enough to understand while still yearning for more by the end. While a bit more information might have raised the film overall, it's still fair to say that the tease pays off for the most part. - dbamateurcritic
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EdgarST6 April 2020
Thanks to the quarantine, I finally saw "Burning". What a long and overrated movie! Based on a Japanese short story, it is not a bad film, it has inspired directorial moments, and a very good performance by the charmingly sinister Steven Yeun, but it's one of those movies that critics, the film "intelligentsia" and filmmakers, all addicted to Netflix (where they know what makes their subscribers tick), adore and excessively praise, because the ambiguous plots, mysteries, alleged murderers, psychological mazes and other clichés, all lead them to delirium... like Jong-su, the protagonist.

Jong-su (Yoo) is a poor, reserved and humble boy, a product of a very dysfunctional family, with literary pretensions, and who is torn between beginning to write the novel that will accredit him as a writer, and his obsession with Hae-mi ( un), his ex-classmate, who is also poor, has mystical aspirations that she confuses with her primary eroticism, and who leads Jong-su to meet Ben (Yeun), a well-off man, of uncertain profession and with small tastes and secrets like anybody else. Meanwhile, boy and girl have to solve family matters and pay debts, and when she disappears, the film becomes a little livelier than the 90 previous minutes, following the stereotypical steps of the "thriller" that you have seen hundreds of times and... degenerating? into a kind of «Psycho»... a little more explicit. Check it out... but don't believe the story of the 150 nominations and awards. There are better films that never won a banana, in which you can better waste your time.
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Slow, pointless, boring
stekoshy11 February 2019
Warning: Spoilers
This movie was slow and extremely boring. It has decent performances, especially from Ben, but it doesn't fix this movies glacial pace at all. The protagonist looks like he has no idea what is happening 75% of the time, and the girl is so unrelatable. The plot is uninteresting and resolves in the most predictable way. Sure there's symbolism to be found in many places, but it's not worth watching the film to identify it.
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Slow and pointless
biont11 September 2018
Okay, guys. This is one slow-paced movie that adds no value whatsoever. You waste two and a half hours looking at a "brain-dead" guy walking around doing moronic investigation. The dude is a total redneck, mouth half opened, slow and stupid. Pure in his heart, but dumb in his brain. So, that's what you get in the end. A story of a kind stupid kid and his crush. It would've been a hell of a thriller back in the days when the original story was written. But this story in 2018 is pure boredom, unless you are completely in love with this particular actor playing a limp dummy, or perhaps with the decorations, that are beautifully shot, I must say. For the overall pretty wrap of a simple idea I give it 5 stars, but would never want to see it again.
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It's burning not outside, but inside
ValDudka27 February 2019
An amazingly graceful Korean story, exciting the viewer's attention and not letting go until the end. The film isn't for a wide audience, lasts 2 and a half hours, it goes slowly and asks a lot of questions. But the plot is built correctly, so that the viewer can understand the characters and start thinking about the questions that have arisen. The independent film seems to be divided into 2 parts: the first tells the story of a love triangle, and the second goes to a fascinating detective thriller. Director Lee Chang-dong wonderfully plays with the viewers' imagination who are trying to understand the thoughts of the main characters and their intentions. I liked very much the juxtaposition of the main characters - the writer Lee Jong-soo, who cannot see the hidden meaning and thus awakens a strong hunger inside himself, which doesn't allow him to sleep and to enjoy a life, to create; his opponent, Ben, a kind of rich Gatsby, quite the opposite one, he is filled with inspiration and understands the true beauty of all things, thus filling himself and everyone around him with a mysterious special flame. The narration is slow, during this time you can fully enjoy the visual component, excellent camera work. Scene setting, editing, actors' play - everything works for the picture and its success. No wonder that the film won a prize at the Cannes Film Festival.
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The story that leaves you with a lot of questions
aleksandar-milanovic8927 March 2019
Burning is an excellent psychological thriller with the veil of mystery around it. The movie that intrigues you and leaves you with a lot of questions to ask yourself why and to give it a try to connect the small pieces of mosaic. The more you think about the story and dialogs more questions starts to go on surface. Many of them don't have definite answer. It leaves a lot of space for imagination and analysis. It is a great study of characters. Atmosphere in the movie is dark with a lot of suspense. Acting and direction was on the spot. But the story is the one that is really unique. I haven't read the short story of Murakami ,,Burning Barn'', but now I am more than interested. I think that the movie is worth watching more times in order to catch all the small details that you maybe missed when you watched first time.Recommended for the people with more time,patience and with the tendency to analyze.
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Hint: It has nothing to do with burning "greenhouses"
EasternZZ2 November 2019
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is slow and quiet but I never found it boring. It really picks up after the midway point and you really have to listen carefully at the characters' dialogue as they usually have double entendres.

This is a very bleak movie and despite the "ambiguity" of the story, at the same time there really isn't. If you pay attention to the characters and what they are doing, you should have no problem knowing what really happens. This movie doesn't have any giant epic fight scenes or action scenes, but it is the quiet parts that really send shivers down your spine when you really think about it. This story has happened many times in real life.

Overall this movie really is good. The two actors and actress are really good in this movie.

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A slow burner that might be a bit too slow for some
erikdlcd29 March 2020
Warning: Spoilers
Great plot, great acting, great minimal score, great cinematography, and there are some great metaphors and small details that challenges you and makes you think. The movie's only weak point is that it drags on a bit too much. 8/10.

Here are some metaphors and details details that I noticed coupled with some theories that I have (spoilers!): -The abandoned greenhouses are obviously metaphors for women who are alone and in debt. Ben preys on these women because no one would miss them, just like no one would miss an abandoned greenhouse.

-Haemi didn't fall into a well. If she did, one of the three older women would have remembered it. The well is a metaphor for her life. She's alone and can't crawl herself out of her debt. Jangsu shows up and saves her by brightening her life.

-Ben is obviously a psycopath. One of the ways you can see that is that he yawns when other people are laughing.

-A really important detail is that "cremation" and "makeup" are spelled the same way in Korean. This confirms that Ben is murdering (or at least doing something to) socially isolated women.

-"Greenhouse" and "plastic house" also have the same Korean translation. The women that Ben prey on have all had plastic surgery (probably), something a lonely woman who wants to be wanted would do.
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Most boring movie that was ever made
ancaelenapatrascu7 January 2021
The movie is so borning that it actually made me want to write my first review here. Watched 1hour and a half and absoloutely NOTHING happens, just pointless dialogue. Couldn t resist to watch the rest of the movie, this is by far one of the most boring movies i have ever seen
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What a bore
bliss663 February 2019
This is utterly tedious. For the bulk of the film you're just watching one man follow another man which is so completely contrived because the follower is driving an obvious farm utility vehicle and therefore completely conspicuous. If you're wondering whether you need to see this, give it a miss.
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These people will probably not be fans of Burning, but I find it terrific.
ThureLindhardt23 September 2018
I believe people who as kids could not silently work on a puzzle for hours, but who gave up after only completing the edges, probably won't be fond of 'Burning'.

I believe people who always need a recipe, even after having cooked eggs hundreds of times before in their lives, probably won't be fond of 'Burning'.

I believe boys or men who never cry because they genuinely think it's for girls probably won't be fans of 'Burning'. (This is different from having been taught not to cry by elder brothers, like myself)

I believe people who, watching films or reading books, have never empathised with the feelings of someone who leads a completely different life, probably won't be fans of 'Burning'.

I cannot tell you to like it, but I am this (probably sensitive) guy who was really moved by the film. It haunts me, and I'll tell you why.

The way director Lee Chang-Dong made me experience Jongsu's powerlessness is riveting. I could feel his anger and insecurity when poor Jongsu discovered his 'girlfriend' Hae-Mi accompanied by the shining and rich Ben at the airport. Later on, Hae-Mi goes missing and Jongsu does everything in his power to find her. The suspense and mystery really killed me.

I found 'Burning' to be discomforting and haunting. It shows and doesn't tell, which makes you pay attention to little details. Along the way, Chang-Dong gives clues about why Ben is really interested in Hae-Mi (is he really?) I wondered about the tiny bits of phrase or looks on faces that on the first hearing and viewing may seem irrelevant, but from which I experienced an aha-erlebnis while I was biking home from the theatre.

For me personally, this movie is a true ten out of ten. I recommend you not to go to the film by yourself, but to have someone with you to discuss its details. If you want to understand everything, you'll have to think. Even then, your friend will probably have spotted the meaning of something you thought was strange. Lipstick, for example.

If you don't like these kind of films, that's okay. I guess it really is what I like about films, and I hope you will try to see what I saw.
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Why all the high scores?
the_nephilim7117 February 2019
First off this 2.5 hour movie is about 2 hours too long. For the first hour of the movie, nothing and I mean NOTHING happens. It's all down-hill from there. This movie is overrated, pretentious, and nonsensical. Don't waste your time unless you like wasting 2.5 hours of your time.
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"Breathless in 2018": Just an independent creation rather than an adaptation
humanome10 August 2018
Warning: Spoilers
If you try to find out the traces of original novel (Haruki's), or usual "answers" (e.g. is Hae-Mi killed? by whom?), you might be easily lost. Or at least find the movie very confusing, vague, and dull. First of all, the movie got some style and motifs from the original novel, but it is almost nothing to do with it.

The movie is intentionally centered on the view, angle (the shaky, rough, and sometimes surrealistic camera work), and what Jong-su can see, think, and understand - reflecting the inner Chaos. For him, the world around him is mysterious, confusing, depressing, and outraging. He has not been doing anything wrong, but he sees no hope or future. He wants to be a writer, but he even does not know what he wants to write. for him Hae-mi was the rarest luck (same as the only ephemeral sunshine that Hea-mi's room can have from the reflection of the tower). As an unexpected guy (Ben) interrupts between Jong-su and Hae-mi, and starts to approach Hae-mi with his wealth, Jong-su's hidden wrath toward outside world become more confused, desperately tries to find out what he can get existentialistic understandings.

Overall, the movie bears heavy social connotations, albeit hidden or slightly mentioned within Jong-su's cognitive reach. I think this is the new challenge of the renouned director (Chang-Dong Lee) - an "omniscent viewpoint from the disorganized youth - even the movie only shows what Jong-su can understand with his own language and grammar. Is this a good way to raise an issue and make it sympathized with audience? I don't know. but I can say for certain that it is not a usual approach. I want to call this movie another "Breathless" (of Goddard's) re-created in 2018 Korea, rather than from the Haruki's.

Just I did not really like the latter part of Jong-su's obsessed quest - Not very symbolic or has tense structure with overall movie. Probably many audience has been lost after the latter half. I won't recommend this movie who are seeking Avengers or Deadpool.
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A hypnotic menagerie of the basest of human behaviour
ctowyi17 October 2018
Terms like "masterpiece" and "breathtaking" are used far too often, yet they define Lee Chang-dong's latest, eight years after his brutally lyrical Poetry (2010). However, Burning, based on Haruki Murakami's short story Barn Burning, is not an easy film to watch. Allusive and elusive, it begins as a brilliant character study and gradually shifts its gear segueing into psychological thriller territory.

Jong-su (Yoo Ah-in), a part-time worker, bumps into Hae-mi (Jun Jeong-seo) while delivering, who used to live in the same neighborhood. Hae-mi asks him to look after her cat while she's on a trip to Africa. When Hae-mi comes back, she introduces Ben (Steven Yuen), a mysterious guy she met in Africa, to Jong-su. One day, Ben visits Jong-su's with Hae-mi and confesses to him during a pot session that he burns abandoned greenhouses.

In anticipation of the film, I re-read the Haruki Murakami's short story taken from the anthology The Elephant Vanishes. Like a lot of his works, the story feels cryptic, simple on the surface, surreal once it gets under your skin. There is a mystery but Murakami doesn't quite persuade you to penetrate beneath the veneer. I certainly didn't think for one second it could be adapted into a film because there doesn't seem to be much of a plot at all. My wife shared the same sentiment. We were all the more curious as to what Lee could distill from this intriguing short story.

Like Murakami's distinctive prose, Lee's Burning retains the other-worldly surreality through arthouse pacing and artful cinematography. The first act moves at a languid pace as we observe Jong-su's infectious reticence and Hae-mi's enthusiastic flamboyance. It is an unlikely match, but you will sense the possibility of a sweet romance. They long to cling near one another like satellites, but they will never share the same orbit because forming the third vertex of the triangular relationship is Ben, the coolly detached upper-class, the spanner in the works, the Great Gatsby.

As much as the first act plays like a meditative dance of a fever dream and an elegy for lost innocence, I also recognise that it will be divisive. I have a feeling most filmgoers won't have the patience to sit through it and be emotionally vested in the characters. Lee may be an extraordinary image maker, gently probing deep into the human psyche, its desires and impulses, but the story feels opaque, dense, resembling an enigma. But if one is a serious filmgoer, it is easy to slip into Lee's rhapsodic wonder of a tale, patiently waiting for the bomb to drop. It is when the head film becomes a mind film in the second act that it pays dividends tenfold.

If Murakami's short story feels deceptively simple, Lee takes it into the nether region of complexity. He unravels what it means to be consumed by a mystery and what it means to be alive. The production is meticulously artful - ponder over how Jong-su's home is a stone's throw from the border of both Koreas and how propaganda is blaring every other hour, and ravel in the beautiful light of the sunset as Ben shares his unusual hobby. Lee is able to externalise the interior states of the human mind in extraordinary ways. The subtext of social classes in the Korean society also plunges a knife into one's consciousness. He is also helped by a unique soundtrack of discordant musical cues that grow in mysterious power as the story grows in stature. Lee builds the final act to a feverish high and he almost wants to deny us the satisfaction of a resolution, but it does arrive at an ending that is shocking and inevitable. There is no celebration; there is only the quiet satisfaction of arriving at the solution of a baffling Math problem that has nagged at you for many sleepless nights.

Lee fills every frame with meaning, enhanced and accentuated in no small part by the three superb leads. He priorities rhythm and texture over narrative clarity, immersing us in a hypnotic menagerie of the basest of human behaviour. Burning is an engrossing tale of the unravelling of a rational and innocent mind by sheer desire, rich with characterisations and themes. It is a Korean film unlike any other Korean film I have seen and it immediately warrants a second or third viewing to catch all the nuances. I hope I don't have to wait another eight years for his next film.
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Not worth 2 hours and a half
brother279126 May 2019
The plot is not interesting enough for the lenght, after 1 hour or so you start checking your clock. It doesnt even have great cinematography. Had potential cause the caracters are interesting but it all ends meh. I dont recomended it
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Nice, but slow and long, so bring some coffee with you.
huhabi14 October 2018
What I really liked about the movie was the psychological tension building up during the film. You keep wondering what happened and are just left with a few clues which could be interpretated in several ways. The film brings some suspense which reminded me of some Hitchcock movies from the past. There was also a big difference with Hitchcock though: whereas Hitchcock uses strong acting, imagery and sound to build up the tension, in Burning there are not much scenes which please the eye, it's just all so... normal as is the acting. Furthermore, the script is slow... with several scenes which leave you wondering why you had to witness this information at all. This resulted in several people snoring in the Cinema I saw this screening. In all honesty, the film breathes an atmosphere simalar to the books of Murakami, which in my opinion also tend to be more poetic and slow - certainly no page turners and neither is Burning. So if you really like the books of Murakami, this is the film for you I suppose. Overall experience: bit boring, intriguing, weird, not much to please the eye or ear, interesting storyling. Worth to see it? YES, but prepare for a long sit and bring some coffee to keep awake.
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Are You Kidding me?
escroque11 February 2019
I wonder if some cineasts think extending the time of a movie fills its history.

This movie could have been 1 hour and 45 minutes shorter. Almost nothing happens in the entire movie and the characters are completely dull. This is cinema at its worse. Please, don't waste your time.
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