Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring ★★★½

It's not Kim Ki-Duk's sequel to his 2000 classic The Isle, but in many ways it might as well be. It's set on a floating hut in a large, peaceful, forest-lined lake; it's quiet and deliberately paced, with minimal dialogue; there's the implication that the city is where bad things happen; and several animals are mistreated on screen for good measure. Everything else is different, though. It follows the life of a young Buddhist monk (very young when we first see him) as he's brought up by his master, the hut owner, until we reach an ending that brings the story full circle. Along the way he mischievously tortures some small creatures, gets a girlfriend, leaves for several years, returns, is taken away, and upon coming back finally grows up. The message seems to be that boys will be boys, but eventually, belatedly, they'll mature... only for the next little shit to come along and start the cycle again. So it's surprisingly cynical for what superficially seems to be a paean to the serenity of Buddhism. As with The Isle, Kim films his watery setting beautifully, to the extent that the soporific tone is barely an issue.