Burning (2018)- The perfect definition to Korean Cinema

A serene, quiet manifestation of the South Korean landscape which touches themes of jealousy, greed, and working class anxiety with near perfection.

Movies which keep me contemplating for days and weeks later become my personal favorites. It didn’t take “Burning” that long to solidify its title and position, and is currently my #16 favorite film of all-time. To be honest, Korean cinema has cast a long shadow in the global cinema and is a prepossessing inspiration for millennial filmmakers and aspiring cinephiles. Parasite was a revelation at the Academy Awards 2020 and even its Palme D’or victory has given a huge name to the rising, trendsetting Korean cinema base. I’ll be talking about the film with a much detailed analysis, as it has opened doors of filmmaking inspiration for me, and I soon plan on to prepare a short film. Lee Chang Dong seems to be overshadowed by the rising popularity and undisputed presence of Bong Joon-Ho, but his retrospective has intriguing ideas about studying characters and the vast landscape of Korean socio-cultural and economic areas. Similarly, Lee Dong’s “Burning” flows quietly and captivates us into the screenplay very quickly in the beginning. The film captures two different parts of the city and uses the aroma of class discrimination and jealousy alongside, thus being foretold in a mysterious, crypted tone of the film. For the viewers, they may find theme similarities with the Oscar winner, “Parasite”, but quite honestly, these films are still entirely different in their technicalities and storytelling, thus only sharing a common message for the Korean society. “Burning” takes us to an odyssey of differences in human behavior and explores the vernacular classes of society, with the focus mainly converging towards the gap between rich and poor. The film hypnotizes spectators as it is profoundly articulate in exploring luxury on one side and destitute poverty on the other.

The trio performances were ravishing and holds the major essence of the film on its shoulders. Steven Yeun is an astonishing charm in this feature presentation.

Looking at the film’s storytelling with a visionary mindset, Jong Su is on the verge of insolvency and the environmental and legal regulations is being barbaric to him. On the other hand, Ben is a scintillating character and an exception to Korean society, thus keeping us clouded till the end with his mysterious, philosophical idiosyncratic nature. Homo sapiens are distanced not only by monetary facets and social esteem, but several things come into picture. Jong Su’s intolerance and troubled-abusive childhood keeps him in agony on the inside, while on the outside he is trying incessantly hard to win Hae Mi’s heart. Hae Mi is the connecting link between two uniquely different landscapes of Korea, with economic and socio-cultural facets of the country being articulated with raw honesty and cruelty. Some of the film’s shots are meticulously crafted, with the original score being a resonant memory for the viewers. It stays possessed till long and each time it takes me to the cruel reality in Seoul, South Korea. Alongside, the film’s three different character studies depicting on Hae Mi’s cheerful liberty and casual loneliness, Jong Su’s raging tensions unraveling deep inside and his jealousy, and Ben’s ineffable eccentric mindset, the film profoundly looms over human lives who are connected with one purpose. Is it Love or Money here?

Burning never answers questions to our scratching, skeptical heads and later becomes a grim, yet slow driving thriller. The film neither provides hints to us investigate certain things but keeps our minds numb with a cloud of ambiguity. Human lives are immensely intricate and certain ones are acquainted with one another irrespective of cultural and wealth differences. How brilliantly rendered are situations when the camera looms over two distinct tangible objects and at various frames, thus sometimes taking us to the demolished and underdeveloped parts of Seoul, while sometimes to the haute-couture, posh suburbans of the city. In the world where “Romeo” and “The Great Gatsby” have something common to share with one another, “Burning” also uses abstract language of poetry, minimalism and existentialism. Ben isn’t just a Porsche racing rich individual, but is a mystery from the inside. The film gives me paranoia but elates me at the same time with its magnificent cinematography, where some scenes are of highly the avant-garde. Burning keeps your eyes wide open and forcibly engrosses ourselves in an uncanny portrayal of class discrimination, working class anxiety, and explores anguish, frustration and revenge with eloquence. It can be cold and unsettling at times, yet it does justice and always keeps the spectator on the edge. Just to conclude, the film has one of the most finest and extraordinary done climaxes in any other film. It’s awestrucking, jaw-dropping and keeps you uninterpreted with questions.

Quite synonymous to Tarkovsky’s take on Mirror, Burning’s cinematography on the other hand, is a relevation for many films.

Although I believe I seem to have successfully explored the essence of the film, thus keeping the spoiler part in mind. Go for it, it’s one of a kind and deserves the infamous “It’s Terrific” Citizen Kane tagline for the landscape of Korean cinema. Burning Greenhouses will always be a resonating memory and surely a splendour hobby for many cinephiles and obsessive film fans.

ACTING- 5/5

DIRECTION- 5/5

SCREENPLAY- 4.5/5

PACING/EDITING- 4.5/5

CINEMATOGRAPHY- 5/5

MUSIC EDITING/SCORE- 4.5/5

VERDICT- 5/5

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