“Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring” is a South Korean film chronicling the life of a boy raised by a Holy Master. The two live in a small temple built on a floating platform in the middle of a lake. To get on and off the platform, they must use a boat and paddle back and forth. The film is set in modern times, but the isolation of their environment and archaic lifestyle creates a whimsical world of ancient splendor.
As a young boy, the child finds humor in tormenting animals. He ties one end of a string to the animal, and the other to a rock, inhibiting the movement of the animal. The master catches him in the act, and in return, ties a large rock to the sleeping child that night. When he awakes, he can barely move, and is instructed to search and release the animals he tortured. What the child finds will change him forever.
This sequence of this boy’s life was designated “spring,” and after this chapter, the movie moves on to “summer.” Now, the boy is a teenager and beginning to desire exploration. When a young woman comes to the temple to be healed by the master, the two teenagers interact awkwardly, but eventually succumb to temptation. When it is time for her to leave, the young man is devastated, and is not the same as before. He abandons the temple and master in search of his first love.
Moving to “fall,” the boy returns as a man to the temple, but is now permanently transformed. His actions in the city have attracted the attention of the police. The police track him down, but before he is taken, the master requires him to complete a daunting task that will help him achieve inner peace. This will be the last time the master will teach his pupil.
The following “winter” and “spring” are turning points in the film. Although the movie is subtitled, this should not steer the viewer away. The beautiful scenery and rich symbolism is intriguing, and can spur some fascinating reflections. For someone looking for comedy or action, this might not be the movie for them. “Spring” will provide cerebral stimulus and confirm that there is more to South Korea than Gangnam Style.