Burning

Burning

The only way to make the serenity of a place detached from civilization intense is to frame it from the perspective of lonely people. Lee Chang-dong‘s long-anticipated, immediately-acclaimed Burning is able to craft this in two ways for two different individuals. Lee Jong-su is always dwarfed by the rural nature of the farm his family grew up with, and it furthers his status as a true Murakami protagonist with a total lack of direction in a world of constant mystery. Hae-mi is lyrical and fluid in her movements, someone who wishes to revel in her lack of direction and entrapment, and even does so for once in a stunning moment underscored by a particular Miles Davis track, but comes back to the suffocating truths that Jong-su seems to take as just another event. Add Ben to the equation, and the feelings stir more to reflect on a shared young adult ennui next to someone with the best of their years already starting.

Other reviewer‘s here have applied a socioeconomic reading to the film, and it’s valid. The situation of Ben contrasted with the other two leads is made overt, with his endless circle of friends and the apparent sociopathy he possesses with his odd pastime. Another reading is possible when considering how ambiguous the narrative becomes, in true fashion of the source material’s author of enigmatic fiction. Why question Ben’s culpability when Jong-su is merely more passive in his obsessions? Quiet observation is one thing, and the lack of reaction on his part to various problems befalling him before the disappearance of Hae-mi could be attributed to being a passenger before he makes a move at last. At the same time, he may be digesting all the reasons to lose form. His father’s anger issues, lonely occupation of a farm, no ideas for a novel he wishes to write, there’s no direction and nothing to lose. His response to what he perceives as a sinister threat to his desires makes perfect sense, even if it might not even be what he thinks it’s for.

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