Violet’s review published on Letterboxd:
In retrospect I feel bad for giving this film a one sentence review last year when I first watched it because it deserves something more.
As some of you may have noticed last week I watched Green Fish and thus finally finishing Lee Chang-dong's filmography. Which I've wanted to do for quite awhile now. I didn't really expect to find myself rewatching Burning so soon afterwards. There's this indescribable aspect of the film for me that always makes it stay it in the back of my mind for me. Another example of this is when I watched Lee Chang-dong's other masterpiece, Oasis. For a brief period I thought that was my favorite from him, but overtime I subconsciously started to think about how I prefer Burning. Burning is just one of those films that has never really left me. So many aspects of the film have just really stuck and kept me thinking for a long period of time.
I think the main reason for that is because of how ambiguous the film is. I've seen some people complain about the huge ambiguity of the film and quite personally I disagree, I think its what makes the film so special. For a Mystery Thriller like Burning, I want something I'll be trying to figure out right after I finish watching it. It creates a sense of engagement within the text of the film, and it also shows that Lee Chang-dong considers the audience clever enough to make their own conclusion of what happened in the story. I really hate it whenever these type of films just give away everything in an uninspired manner, so this is a type of mysterious storytelling I welcome with open arms.
Coming back to this film after watching all of his other work made me realize how anti-capitalist it is. It isn't uncommon for Lee Chang-dong to center his films around the repressive political and societal climate in South Korea. However in Burning, its tackled in an incredibly interesting way, most notably through the main characters. All three of the main characters represent major roles in Korean society, and two of them have their own struggles within it. That being Shin Hae-mi and Lee Jong-su. Shin Hae-mi is a victim of the misogyny that she faces in South Korea. As a character pointed out in one of the later scenes of the film, women get criticized for essentially everything they do. Whether it be about their makeup or the clothes they wear. Hae-Mi is an incredibly compelling character to me because she's just trying to find the greater purpose of her life and live in it. Wanting to be able to live free. Lee Jong-su is more of the every man is how I see him. He's a college graduate and out of service, and he wants to become a writer but can't finish the novel he's been working on. We see the film through his eyes and its easy to get invested in what we're experiencing alongside with him.
Then there's the final of the three main characters, Ben. Ben is arguably the antagonist of Burning depending how you see the events of the film. First off Steven Yuen gave an absolutely incredible performance, his performance as Ben was absolutely unsettling and created a feeling of "this is off" during various scenes. As commented by Lee Jong-su, Ben is one of the many young people in the country who are rich for no real reason. Who are also able to commit crimes and not be punished for it. When Ben enters the film it starts to feel incredibly different and it doesn't stop from there.
Burning is a masterpiece no doubt about it and I consider it one of the greatest films not only of the 2010's, but of all time.
"There are so many Gatsby's in Korea"