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

Spring, Summer, Winter, Fall . . . and Spring (Bom yeoreum gaeul gyeoul geurigo bom) presents a parable based on Buddhist philosophy that everything returns over one’s life and beyond. One afternoon in spring, a five-year-old boy (played by Kim Jong Ho), in training to be a monk, ties stones to a fish, a frog, and a snake under the watchful eyes of a his mentor, a mid-forties Buddhist monk (played by Oh Young Soo), whom he calls “master.” That night, the monk ties a rock to the boy’s back. When the boy arises the next morning, he complains of the burden. The monk says that he will remove the rock only if the boy will first untie the rock from the three living creatures; were any to die, the load will remain in his heart for the rest of his life. Although the boy then removes the rock from the frog, the fish and the snake are both dead; on seeing the blood of the snake, the boy cries profusely. When the scene then switches to summer, a mother (played by Kim Jung Young) and daughter (played by Ha Yao Jin) arrive at the site (a monastery built especially for the film inside Jusan Pond in Juwangsan National Park). Asking the monk to cure the mental problem of her daughter, the mother departs. The boy, now seventeen (played by Seo Jae Kyung), escorts the daughter around the idyllic setting; ultimately, the boy makes love in two scenes that display his nude backside. When the girl believes herself cured, she leaves, but the teenage boy has fallen in love and follows her to town despite the monk’s warning that he is doing so out of lust, not love, and may end up murdering her. The monk’s prediction proves correct, and the boy returns in the fall as a man in his mid-thirties (played by Kim Young Min) seeking serenity, a part of the film where action slows down considerably, while the man tries to engage in anger management. In the winter, the lake freezes over, and the monk commits suicide, while the man recalls his youthful errors, which now weigh down more heavily as old age inevitably approaches. A woman with a cloth over her face (played by Park Jia), doubtless representing fate, arrives one day with a baby, much as the mother brought a teenage girl the previous spring; but as she walks across the frozen lake to leave, she falls into a hole in the ice and dies. When spring returns, the baby has become a boy, and the mature man has found peace of mind as an old monk (played by the director Kim Ki Duk), who will try to pass on his wisdom to the next generation. The life cycle and seasonal change continue, including the necessity for the young to make mistakes and suffer the consequences for the rest of their lives despite the wisdom of their elders. Indeed, the movie does an even better job of presenting Buddhism than the classic Siddharta (1972), and filmviewers who seek inner peace may benefit from a copy of the movie for several re-screenings. Cinematically, Spring, Summer, Winter, Fall . . . and Spring contains possibly the best cinematography ever brought to the screen. MH

Scroll to Top