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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring (2003)

Child Monk: It's too heavy.
Old Monk: How do you think the fish, the frog and the snake endured it?

- Kim Jong-Ho, Oh Young-Su

Review By: Matt Peterson  
Published: August 15, 2004

Stars: Oh Young-Su, Kim Ki-Duk, Kim Young-Min, Seo Jae-Kyung, Kim Jong-Ho
Other Stars: Ha Yeo-Jin, Kim Jung-Young, Ji Dae-Han, Choi Min
Director: Kim Ki-Duk

MPAA Rating: R for some strong sexuality
Run Time: 01h:41m:58s
Release Date: September 07, 2004
UPC: 043396041271
Genre: foreign

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ B+BB+ D

DVD Review

A Buddhist monastery sits in solitude, floating on the surface of a glassy lake wedged between the mountainous ridges of a valley. Spring's newly green vegetation abounds, peppering the hillsides, creating an endless blanket of foliage. Insects sputter about and chirp when they see fit. An old monk (Oh Young-Su) goes about his routine. Prayer, meditation, picking herbs for medicine, and simple contemplation are his tasks, and his devotion is absolute. His young student, a small boy (Kim Jong-Ho), is more occupied with the mischief of youth, tying small stones to various creatures; a fish, frog, and snake become ensnared in the boy's cruel game, from which he gleans great enjoyment. The master is disturbed, and aims to teach the boy a lesson.

Summer arrives, and the boy is now older (Seo Jae-Kyung), reaching the age of adolescence. A young girl (Ha Yeo-Jin) is brought to the monastery to find a cure for her ailment. The old monk, experienced in matters of the body and soul, determines the girl's plight stems from a lack of spiritual health: Cure the soul, and the body will follow. The monk's student, now a young man, is awakened by this newly arrived beauty. Feelings he did not know existed are suddenly stirred within him, and her reactions to his advances are not filled with rejection. The weather shifts along with the young man's experience of love, which is met with pain, sorrow, and great change.

So begins the seasons of this film, which trace the seasons of one man's life. The tale does not end here. The colors of fall and the biting cold of winter are yet to arrive, and along with them, greater levels of maturity. The lengthy title perfectly encapsulates the format of the picture, which is broken up into five vignettes. Seasons reflect the stages of the monk's life, but this very simple tale goes well beyond that. There are deeper layers here that require little dialogue to bring to life; this is fortunate, since the film has very few uttered words. These layers address the human condition itself, including the many emotions and choices therein; love, lust, forgiveness, redemption, punishment, "the world of men" and even crime are covered.

Ultimately, Kim Ki-Duk's film becomes more metaphorical than narrative. There are moments of great emotion and intensity here, though the director's pastoral images tend to drive points home with glaring repetition. Still, there is an immersing quality to his film, which conjures thoughts of Ozu. Camera movements are minimal, and compositions, well crafted. I must confess, there are certain Buddhist rituals depicted here that I am ignorant about. They are not explained, but their motives seem clear. Perhaps this is the point.

Interestingly enough, the reverent attitude of the film toward Buddhist practices suggests this is clearly the work of a Buddhist director. In reality, Ki-Duk is a devout Catholic, and clearly sees value in the kind of spirituality that is depicted here; it is a religion that is instrumental to the fabric of his society. This is a film that is experienced—it is much like visual poetry; what you get out of it may very well depend on what you take with you going in. I felt enriched. It's a subjective piece that provides a sense of calm while it instructs. We all must carry stones in this life. This film may help reveal why.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Columbia's transfer is acceptable, but not outstanding. Colors are appropriately muted and bright when called for, matching the correct season. However, detail is somewhat soft throughout, and there is some edge enhancement. Grain is minimal, but this transfer could certainly be crisper.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The Korean 5.1 track contains clear dialogue (for the few lines in the film). Its main purpose is to set the scene aurally, and it delivers. The surrounds are alive with ambeint sounds of nature, enveloping the listener in the breathtaking vistas on screen. Music also bleeds into the rear channels. A fine, natural mix.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring Carandiru, Zhou Yu's Train, Broken Wings, Winged Migration, Young Adam
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Aside from the trailers listed above, there are no extras. An attractive one-sheet insert is included.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

Kim Ki-Duk's simple, yet meaningful tale elevates itself into a metaphor of the cycle of human life, and our flaws within. At times, the points are a bit heavy-handed, but this is easily forgiven. The pure, natural setting is the icing on the cake; it's a nature retreat on a disc. Recommended.


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