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Burning (2018)

Beoning (original title)
Not Rated | | Drama, Mystery | 17 May 2018 (South Korea)
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Jong-su bumps into a girl who used to live in the same neighborhood as him, who asks him to look after her cat while on a trip to Africa. When back, she introduces Ben, a mysterious guy she met there, who confesses his secret hobby.

Director:

Chang-dong Lee

Writers:

Jungmi Oh (screenplay by) (as Jung-mi Oh), Chang-dong Lee (screenplay by) | 1 more credit »
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657 ( 70)
32 wins & 104 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Credited cast:
Ah-in Yoo ... Lee Jong-su
Steven Yeun ... Ben (as Yeun Sang-yeop)
Jong-seo Jun ... Shin Hae-mi
Soo-Kyung Kim ... Yeon-ju
Seung-ho Choi Seung-ho Choi ... Lee Yong-seok
Seong-kun Mun ... Lawyer
Bok-gi Min Bok-gi Min ... Judge
Soo-Jeong Lee Soo-Jeong Lee ... Prosecutor
Hye-ra Ban Hye-ra Ban ... Jong-su's Mom
Mi-Kyung Cha Mi-Kyung Cha ... Hae-mi's Mom
Bong-ryeon Lee Bong-ryeon Lee ... Hae-mi's Sister
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Wonhyeong Jang Wonhyeong Jang ... Won-hyeong
Seok-Chan Jeon Seok-Chan Jeon ... Seok-chan
Joong-ok Lee Joong-ok Lee ... Patrolman
Ja-Yeon Ok Ja-Yeon Ok ... Ja-yeon
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Storyline

Jong-su, a part-time worker, bumps into Hae-mi while delivering, who used to live in the same neighborhood. Hae-mi asks him to look after her cat while she's on a trip to Africa. When Hae-mi comes back, she introduces Ben, a mysterious guy she met in Africa, to Jong-su. One day, Ben visits Jong-su's with Hae-mi and confesses his own secret hobby. Written by anonymous

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Now Tell the Truth

Genres:

Drama | Mystery

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

South Korea

Language:

Korean | English

Release Date:

17 May 2018 (South Korea) See more »

Also Known As:

Burning See more »

Filming Locations:

Huam-dong, Seoul, South Korea See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$26,130, 28 October 2018, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$718,991, 7 March 2019
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (TV)

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The film premiered at TIFF (Toronto international Film Festival) in Canada in September 2018. See more »

Quotes

Shin Hae-mi: Do you know Bushmen in the Kalahari Desert, Africa It is said that Bushmen have two types of hungry people. Hungry English is hunger, Little hungry and great hungry. Little hungry people are physically hungry, The great hungry is a person who is hungry for survival. Why do we live, What is the significance of living? People who are always looking for these answers. This kind of person is really hungry, They called the great hungry.
See more »

Connections

Featured in Conan: Steven Yeun/Corey Rodrigues (2019) See more »

Soundtracks

Bye-Bye
Performed by Nana D.
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User Reviews

 
A hypnotic menagerie of the basest of human behaviour
17 October 2018 | by ctowyiSee all my reviews

Terms like "masterpiece" and "breathtaking" are used far too often, yet they define Lee Chang-dong's latest, eight years after his brutally lyrical Poetry (2010). However, Burning, based on Haruki Murakami's short story Barn Burning, is not an easy film to watch. Allusive and elusive, it begins as a brilliant character study and gradually shifts its gear segueing into psychological thriller territory.

Jong-su (Yoo Ah-in), a part-time worker, bumps into Hae-mi (Jun Jeong-seo) while delivering, who used to live in the same neighborhood. Hae-mi asks him to look after her cat while she's on a trip to Africa. When Hae-mi comes back, she introduces Ben (Steven Yuen), a mysterious guy she met in Africa, to Jong-su. One day, Ben visits Jong-su's with Hae-mi and confesses to him during a pot session that he burns abandoned greenhouses.

In anticipation of the film, I re-read the Haruki Murakami's short story taken from the anthology The Elephant Vanishes. Like a lot of his works, the story feels cryptic, simple on the surface, surreal once it gets under your skin. There is a mystery but Murakami doesn't quite persuade you to penetrate beneath the veneer. I certainly didn't think for one second it could be adapted into a film because there doesn't seem to be much of a plot at all. My wife shared the same sentiment. We were all the more curious as to what Lee could distill from this intriguing short story.

Like Murakami's distinctive prose, Lee's Burning retains the other-worldly surreality through arthouse pacing and artful cinematography. The first act moves at a languid pace as we observe Jong-su's infectious reticence and Hae-mi's enthusiastic flamboyance. It is an unlikely match, but you will sense the possibility of a sweet romance. They long to cling near one another like satellites, but they will never share the same orbit because forming the third vertex of the triangular relationship is Ben, the coolly detached upper-class, the spanner in the works, the Great Gatsby.

As much as the first act plays like a meditative dance of a fever dream and an elegy for lost innocence, I also recognise that it will be divisive. I have a feeling most filmgoers won't have the patience to sit through it and be emotionally vested in the characters. Lee may be an extraordinary image maker, gently probing deep into the human psyche, its desires and impulses, but the story feels opaque, dense, resembling an enigma. But if one is a serious filmgoer, it is easy to slip into Lee's rhapsodic wonder of a tale, patiently waiting for the bomb to drop. It is when the head film becomes a mind film in the second act that it pays dividends tenfold.

If Murakami's short story feels deceptively simple, Lee takes it into the nether region of complexity. He unravels what it means to be consumed by a mystery and what it means to be alive. The production is meticulously artful - ponder over how Jong-su's home is a stone's throw from the border of both Koreas and how propaganda is blaring every other hour, and ravel in the beautiful light of the sunset as Ben shares his unusual hobby. Lee is able to externalise the interior states of the human mind in extraordinary ways. The subtext of social classes in the Korean society also plunges a knife into one's consciousness. He is also helped by a unique soundtrack of discordant musical cues that grow in mysterious power as the story grows in stature. Lee builds the final act to a feverish high and he almost wants to deny us the satisfaction of a resolution, but it does arrive at an ending that is shocking and inevitable. There is no celebration; there is only the quiet satisfaction of arriving at the solution of a baffling Math problem that has nagged at you for many sleepless nights.

Lee fills every frame with meaning, enhanced and accentuated in no small part by the three superb leads. He priorities rhythm and texture over narrative clarity, immersing us in a hypnotic menagerie of the basest of human behaviour. Burning is an engrossing tale of the unravelling of a rational and innocent mind by sheer desire, rich with characterisations and themes. It is a Korean film unlike any other Korean film I have seen and it immediately warrants a second or third viewing to catch all the nuances. I hope I don't have to wait another eight years for his next film.


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