Kim Ki-duk and Eastern Films

May 14, 2012

The cinema is a global language, and all humans can understand the good Eastern or Western films, because we all are human, and our life, our problems, and our challenges are alike. In the East, Japan, India, and Iran have an old or well-known cinema, but in the recent two decades, some counties like South Korea have had some good filmmakers, and Kim Ki-duk (1960-now) is one of them. Kim Ki-duk is a good South Korean filmmaker that has some good films. In Iran and other parts of the world, many only know the South Korean adult films or its shitty TV series, but Kim Ki-duk has some good films, and at least one of his films can give you some sort of “Inner Peace”. In this shitty world, that many still are prisoners of the basic needs and the animal needs, the humans still seek “Inner Peace”. And Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring (2003) is a movie about “Inner Peace”, “Buddhism”, and the human life. I give this movie 7/10. The story is about the life of a Buddhist monk as he passes through the seasons of his life, from childhood to old age. The Mullah TV has shown this film, in about 85 min, but the movie’s runtime is about 105 min. The film is very poetic and very quiet, but the idiots in the Mullah TV had censored the scenes that were related to the relation between the girl and the young Buddhist. “Spring, …” is a quiet film, and takes a look at life as a whole, while other Kim Ki-duk’s films are R-rated or X-rated movies about special problems. Many think Kim Ki-duk’s films are like other stupid Chinese or South Korean adult films, but Kim Ki-duk is a good filmmaker. At least, two of Kim Ki-duk’s films, “3-Iron (Bin-jip) (2004)” and “Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring (2003)”, that I watched them, were good films. In 2004, he received Best Director awards at two different film festivals, for two different films. At the Berlin International Film Festival , he was awarded for Samaritan Girl (2004), and at the Venice Film Festival he won for 3-Iron (Bin-jip) (2004). “Spring, …” is a quiet film with beautiful scenes. In first season, the Spring, we see a very young Buddhist living with his master on a small floating monastery, drifting on a lake in the serene forested mountains of Korea. It’s a very beautiful valley and a good place for shooting a movie. All the film is happening in this small valley, and in the five seasons (of the human life). We never leave the valley that surrounds the lake, we never know what year is currently going on outside of the forest, but we see how a young boy grows and becomes an old man. Many things are symbolic, and are related to the Buddhism’s philosophy. For instance, the doors have no walls, so they have just symbolic meaning. But the people treat the doors as they have walls, and open and close them like the normal doors, and only when the young Buddhist want to live like an ordinary boy, he ignores the rules. The beauty of the scenes is really amazing. I think the main part of the pleasure of seeing this film belongs to its beautiful scenes, its cinematography, and its music. And it’s what many Iranian filmmakers don’t care about it. In this film, the beauty of nature is being maximized by the art of the camera. The music is great, specially what you hear at the end of the Summer and at the end of the movie. It’s really good. It can give you some sort of “Inner Peace”. Of course, this film is not so deep, and what it says about many problems or the roots of problems is stupid, but many in all the world like this film, because it’s about the human life and part of the human problems in all around the world. You can watch it, enjoy its beauty, and forget this shitty world, at least for two hours.


East Asia (China), like Southern Asia (India) and West Asia (Persia), has a rich culture and an ancient civilization, and cinema can show it to you. “Spring, Summer, …” can show you that the humans in all around the world are like each other. Iran’s culture and Iranian mysticism have many similarities with East Asia’. Since the ancient time, the Chinese were familiar with Persia and its rich culture, and vice versa. So, Iranians can understand many things in East Asia (except their foods and eating Cockroaches !), but other nations can understand the Eastern Asians, as well, because all of us are human. “Spring, …” is a symbolic movie that all humans can understand its main subject. It gives all humans some sort of good feelings, because many things in this film is beautiful, simple, and about the main human problems. Of course, the film has many stupid things. In the Summer, a girl that has an unspecified illness is brought to the Buddhist master by her mother. The young isolated Buddhist is s-e-x-ually attracted to the young girl, that is quite normal, but the film tries to say “s-e-x = corruption and murder”. The old monk says: “Lust awakens the desire to possess. And that awakens the intent to murder”. The old monk says the girl should go. Unable to live without her, the boy leaves the monastery and follows the girl. They get married, she cheats on him, and he kills her. It’s a stupid cliché. Who says that if you had s-e-x, you would become a killer? In this way, all humans were serial killers! But the truth is, if you were a stupid isolated man like the isolated monks, you would become a psycho and a killer. But despite all stupid things in the film, it’s not a bad film, and can give you some sort of “Inner Peace”. The beautiful nature, the beautiful music, and the simplicity can tell you many things. Kim Ki-duk said of the film: “I intended to portray the joy, anger, sorrow and pleasure of our lives through four seasons and through the life of a monk who lives in a temple surrounded only by nature. The floating temple was used to show the speed in which life can change, the way that one can wake up and find that East has become West and West has become East, that irony of life“. In fact, in the recent decades, the West tries to become like the East, and the East tries to become like the West. What you can see in Iran, India, China, Japan, South Korea, etc, can show you that the Eastern people want to become like the westerners. But at the same time, what you can see in the US and Europe, and how much they care about Buddhism, Inner Peace, etc can show you that the Western people want to become like the easterners, too. Some think it’s a bad thing, but I think it’s a good thing. The people in all around the world are human, and can learn from each other and can try to solve their problems with the help of each other. It’s a very good thing. It’s part of a good globalization.


“Spring, Summer, …” can force you to think about the life and the main problems in human life. You can see it as a film about “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs”, and about the unsatisfied needs, the higher needs, the human needs, and the animal needs. It’s a film about the human stupidities and the tragedy of life. The five seasons can show you the speed of your aging process. These seasons are seasons of human life. The first Spring is full of stupid mistakes or stupid dreams. The Summer is full of naivety, animal needs, stupid dreams, stupid mistakes, etc. The Fall is full of regret, anger, etc. And the Winter is when you can gain wisdom, before it’s too late. Finally, returning to “Spring”, the cycle is completed: you have a stupid boy that has become a wise old man, but … In the film, the new master lives in the monastery with the abandoned baby, now his apprentice. The boy is shown to repeating the old mistakes, echoing his predecessor. History repeats itself. It’s a bitter truth, but humans can try to find a solution for it. It’s a solvable problem (I would write about it later). In this film, the old monk and his lifestyle is a cliché, a stupid cliché, but the way he accepts his death and kills himself is interesting. He seals his ears, eyes, nose and mouth with paper, and commits suicide at his death’s time. Since the ancient time, the humans dream about this sort of death. They didn’t want to die like animals. When you see how animals die, specially how elephants die, it reminds you of human death, and it has created many philosophical questions about death, life, afterlife, and many other things since the ancient time. Recently, I saw a documentary film about elephants’ death, that was very interesting. The elephants’ natural death is so tragic, like the humans’ death. And perhaps that’s why some ancient Indians talked about afterlife for both humans and animals. You should see elephants’ natural death, and only after that you can understand ancient Indians, and also why the wise people defend animals’ rights. “Kim ki-duk was accused of hurting animals in his films. He said it’s part of East Asia’s traditions, but many Koreans protested against him, and he made this film for answering them. Kim ki-duk himself appears as the man in the Winter season, to show that he and his films are not only about s-e-x and violence”, some say. The Mullah TV showed “Spring, …”, but they didn’t show other Kim ki-duk’s films, because as funny Iranians say: “When the stupid Mullahs censored these films, nothing remained”. But they are not bad films. At least “3-Iron” that I saw it, is not a bad film. 3-Iron’s plot revolves around the relationship between a young drifter and an abused housewife. The film is notable for the lack of dialogue between its characters. In fact, “Spring, …” and “3-Iron” have a few dialogue. The dialogue in “Spring, Summer, …” is rare and stupid, but the scenes and the music tell you many things. And in “3-Iron”, the characters are depressed or silent. In fact, many Eastern Asians are not talkative, unlike many Iranians who are talkative. Maybe, that’s why they have many depressed people there. I don’t know why many Easter Asians are shy or silent. Is it a genetic issue or a cultural issue? Anyway, recently I watched a good Japanese movie in the state TV, Castaway on the Moon (2009) , and I liked it. I have not watched the original version that its runtime is 115min. The Mullah TV show it in about 105min, but it was acceptable. At first, it seemed like a stupid film and a stupid version of “Cast Away (2000)” (By Zemeckis and Tom Hanks) that I loved it, but after a while it became a good film about a depressed boy and a depressed girl in Japan. The girl who takes close-up shots of the moon and has not left her apartment in years, spies the cast away boy on the island, and it changes their lives. This movie is about Hope, depression, modern life, modern youths in the modern world, etc. And again, it can show you how similar are humans in all around the world, and how tragic the life is in all around the world.


Iranians and non-Iranians can understand the Eastern cinema or the Western cinema, because the cinema is a global language. We all are human, and our life and our problems are alike. What is called “the cultural difference” is really a marginal thing. Even two siblings have their own differences. When you think about the East, you can’t stop thinking about the story of Iran, Japan, China, and South Korea in the past 150 years. Iran and Japan started their modernism at the same time, while China and South Korea were behind them. But the West and the story of Colonialism, and and the story of Oil, changed many things. In 1970s, Iran tried to be as successful as Japan, while China and South Korea were less developed than Iran. When Iran had the car industry in 1960s and 1970s, South Korea had nothing, except a military dictatorship. But the West didn’t allow Iran to become a powerful country, and when the new Western puppets (Mullahs) were destroying Iran, South Korea started its rapid modernism. Today’s South Korea can show you how the Mullahs destroyed Iran. In fact, if the West and the Western puppets, specially the Mullahs, had not destroyed Iran and its image, at least Iran would have been like today’s South Korea. If you want to know how the Mullahs destroyed Iran, you can compare Iran and South Korea in the 2010s and in the 1970s. Today’s conditions in South Korea and its global position, is the minimum that Iranians could have it now. The culture, the contemporary history, the problems, etc in Iran and South Korea are almost alike. So, you can look at South Korea, and see how the Mullahs destroyed Iran. Of course, the human resources, the human development and many other things that are related to the people, not the regimes, have their own natural state in Iran, Korea, and Japan, and today’s Iranians are at least as modern as and as wise as their counterparts in Japan and Korea. But if you want to see how the Mullahs destroyed Iran and its position, you can see it in this simple fact that today the South Koreans can travel to 130 countries without visa, but Iranians … . I hope Iranians and all other nations can get rid of the brutal dictatorship and can realize their potential. It’s good for the whole world. Anyway, Kim Ki-duk’s page in has many interesting things about Kim ki-duk and South Korea. They say: “Kim ki-duk’s family moved to Seoul when he was 9, and there he attended agricultural training school before dropping out at age 17 to take up work in factories. From age 20 to 25 he served in the marines, where he is said to have fit in well. Afterwards he spent two years at a church for the visually impaired with the thought of becoming a preacher. Then in 1990, scraping up all the money he had to buy a plane ticket, he traveled to Paris where he spent two years selling his paintings (a lifelong hobby) on the street. Kim says he went to the movie theater for the first time in his life at this time” I don’t know it’s a joke, or it’s a true thing, but if it’s true, it again could show you how the Mullahs destroyed Iran. It also can be a good lesson for all of us: “Don’t worry about the past or the wasted times. Just start to realize your potential. It’s not late, just stand up and follow your dreams”. They add: “Kim is a rare case of a director who has won accolades and found box-office success overseas, but has largely failed to connect with Korean critics or audiences. In terms of his influences, his aesthetics, the stories he tells, and his local and international reception, Kim Ki-duk seems to inhabit a world all his own. A major shift occurred in Kim’s career with his ninth, ‘Spring, …’. Although he continued to focus on marginalized elements of society, his work took on a more consciously spiritual aspect, downplaying violence. Kim’s softer style played well with foreign audiences. ‘Spring, …’ and ‘3-Iron’ were strong successes in Europe and North America”. Apparently, many Koreans hate Kim ki-duk, and it’s a typical problem in all Eastern nations. I don’t know whether Kim Ki-duk is a Khayemal (ass-kisser) or not. But if he is not a Khayemal like Abbas Khayemal (Kiarostami), South Koreans should stop being stupid. Kim ki-duk is free to make his own movies, and if he is not a Khayemal or charlatan like Abbas Khayemal (Kiarostami), he deserves the international attention. I hope one day in the near future, all people in all around the world, can get rid of the brutal dictatorship, can enjoy the freedom and democracy, and can express themselves. That day, many people can show their talents and can realize their potential. And that day the world will become a better world, and all humans will have a better world.