This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Jack’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Film Club Reboot
By YA BOI
Read my prior diary entry.
Burning is a defining film for the need of ambiguity. The film takes you through a trip into the mind of a hard-working man. Lee Jong-su is a novelist trying to figure out his life. Lee runs into Shin Hae-mi, a long time friend who is unrecognizable due to plastic surgery. From there, the film asks us to pay attention to every single detail. Whether metaphorically or in its ambiguous dialogue. The first time I saw it back in 2018, I had one interpretation. That interpretation involves Lee Jong-su's journey into the darkness of what is "The Great Gatsby" syndrome.
Ben played by Steven Yeun is introduced as Jay Gatsby-esque character. He's a millionaire playboy who gets all of the women and Lee is the Nick Carraway in the situation. If you've read "The Great Gatsby", it ends in tragedy. "The Great Gatsby" syndrome is particularly about how a poor man's infatuation with money/richness leads into a dark path. Lee of course kills Ben in the end after Lee getting completely getting full of himself. That the first thing I picked up when watching this film a few years back.
Now, my POV has completely changed. Mostly because, I payed attention to Shin Hae-mi's arc in it entirely. Shin Hae-Mi is dealt with decision to either become a freer person or a person who stays in their own lane. The biggest question is weather or not Shin Hae-mi actually fulfilled her promise of becoming "Little Hunger Vs. Great Hunger". Little Hunger is the idea of someone physically being hungry for attention and Great Hunger being about how someone is hungry to search for the answers of life. The meaning of life is an extremely important aspect of the film. Ben, Shin Hae-mi, Lee all have trouble with grasping this idea. Lee takes the murderous route, Ben takes the fetishy/instant gratification route, Shin Hae-mi takes more of a mental/physical route. Shin Hae-mi's final scene in this film is important because its metaphorical. She smokes a blunt, dances naked to a sunset. (the same sunset that she cried about earlier on), and "disappears like smoke". We as an audience start to realize that Shin Hae-mi might be a figment of imagination because of the mysterious calls Lee is getting. The significance of the cat "not being there" and then reappearing towards the end. Lee being completely unstable mentally with realizing that Shin Hae-mi might've lied about being trapped in a well.
Maybe Lee might've dreamed of being with Shin Hae-mi the whole time because, he is writing a novel and sitting in the same apartment Shin Hae-mi "used to own". Like I said, its all metaphorical.
The one thing that is still ambiguous is Ben's motivation for burning greenhouses. The only thing I can say that its a hobby, fetish, something he gets of by. Lee's dream of him as a boy burning down a greenhouse can be interpreted as the past ugly self. Lee bullied Shin Hae-mi when he was a kid. Called her ugly and walked away. The past eventually came up to him in the present and now its fucking with his future.
Ben is just absolutely bored in his life. There's an open interpretation of him actually killing Shin Hae-mi but, that's debatable. Ben has a lot of items from his bathroom. All owned by women. The makeup, the watch, etc...
I can talk about this movie all day. I think its one of the best films of the last decade. Truly metaphorical and ambiguous.