The great impact that we have suffered emotionally and significantly in recent months has been reflected in our rhythms, in our body, our minds and our emotions.
We perceive the time that passes in our lives in a different way and our bodies have been impacted by the need to acquire new habits that prevent us from hugging and touching each other. We protect ourselves from anonymous faces that are now hidden behind a facemask, those faces where our stories and our memories are inscribed. Therefore, we need to recover the beauty of life, of our time and of our faces, this is an opportunity that we can have by sharing the gaze of Kim Ki-duk (1960-2020) who has already joined all those people whose lives have claimed the pandemic. This great Korean director distinguished himself in most of his film works for his focus on the aspects of conflicts derived from the marginalization of society and its subsequent violent and redemptive environment, such as Crocodile (1996) and Bad Guy (2011) where he shows us a despairing world in which cruelty is always present, or in films like The Isle (2000) and Pietá (2012) where graphic torture exceeded the tolerance of many of its viewers.
But, surprisingly, Kim Ki-duk created two films in which he masterfully explored the poetic universe of the spirituality and of deep humanity in Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter ... and Spring (2003) and Time (2006).
"SPRING, SUMMER, FALL, WINTER...AND SPRING"
The beauty of life with this film whose contemplation induces a deep meditation treated as a visual poetry, minute by minute the passage of time is inscribed in the silence of the characters in their transformation through time. The metaphor is present at every moment and overflows the beauty of nature and life like a miracle in perfect synchrony.
The serenity and stability of the temple perched on the lake refers us to the harmony and balance found in ourselves. The doors without any walls to contain them symbolize in a sublime way the invisible but present limits of existence itself. In this way, the simplicity that contains the mysteries of life itself, of love, of suffering, of renunciation, of sacrifice, is traversed through a simple story of a monk and his disciple living in a small temple in the middle of a lake in absolute solitude. Upon reaching adolescence, the young disciple leaves the temple in search of the love of a young woman that the monk helped heal, time goes by and he returns to the temple persecuted by the police to arrest him for a crime, shortly after, the monk ends his own life in an act of acceptance and redemption as of his mission and destiny. In a last return to the lonely temple in his adulthood, the disciple takes over the temple and in the middle of the harsh winter receives a visit from a woman with her face hidden in a scarf who in her silent sorrow will abandon her baby.
History repeats itself through the seasons of time, in the eternal cycle of life from the Buddhist perspective, in which meditation and contemplation is where we can truly find the beauty of life and enlightenment.
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring. (2003) Photograph: © Sony Pictures Classics
To approach this film, words are not enough since there is nothing to understand, in Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring we do not have to ask anything, only allow ourselves to immerse within it, in its colours, in its sounds and in its movements, allowing our rhythm to synchronize with the film, we gradually immerse ourselves in the depths of our being. Regardless of the clear Buddhist line that the film builds, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring deals with the cycles of the beginning and the end.
What better time than now to give us a break in our lives and offer our souls the opportunity to rejoice through our eyes, to observe the landscape of our emotions and enjoy the beauty of wonder at every moment of life itself.
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring. (2003) Photograph: © Sony Pictures Classics
"TIME": Who we are
With Time (2006), the proposal that Kim Ki-duk offers us is to question ourselves by dismantling little by little and with a painful and precise subtlety the human dimension of existence as a body, as a spirit, as a memory and as time. In recent times, we have all found ourselves in the situation of confronting ourselves, confined to our homes, away from our loved ones, and distanced from hugs and rubbing on the skin, we have seen the feeling of longing for our life arise itself. Now, when we go out into the street, we do not find any faces, all of them appear covered to protect their lives, we are unable to recognize the emotions and stories inscribed on the faces of others.
Time tells the story of a couple, See-Hee (Ji-Yeon Park) and Ji-Woo (Jung-woo Ha) who have been together for two years. See-Hee, seized with jealousy for the great love she has for Ji-Woo, is anguished at the idea of him getting tired of her, of her same body, her same face and abandoning her for another woman, so See-Hee decides to disappear to change her face through plastic surgery and return after six months to win his love back by introducing herself as a "new" woman. Establishing a game of constant tensions, the search for herself from the transformation of her face and the raw scenes of the violence of the flesh of the surgeries is contrasted with the fragility of a soul that does not find itself, she has stopped recognizing herself in a mirror.
Kim Ki-duk's demand on the viewer is that of sensitivity and distance, the pain of the characters lies in recovering their own history and their own memories in order to continue traveling through the time of life itself.
When See-Hee reappears with a new identity to conquer again Ji-Woo, the drama rises soon after she becomes jealous because Ji-Woo is still in love with his memories of See-Hee.
In this film, not only the human characters take place, but also, we must recognize in this cinema the integration of space and time as the configuration of an aesthetic narrative that reveals the conflict itself, that is, time itself is present to dictate the encounters and disagreements of the couple. Time, as a transforming element, as the devourer of life in its infinite flow is the fundamental axis in which the film is developed and built. Destiny is not a sign or a mark that has to be fulfilled, it is rather a stroke, an action that is not action, but a crystallization of time that constantly circulates until the confusion of what is the beginning and what is the end is not clear enough. The beautiful landscapes act as an evocative and poetic atmosphere that are living spaces full of memories.Fluctuating between the ephemeral and the fleeting, the variable and the stable, the physical body and the face itself emerge as the link that we establish in two ways, with the world outside and with our identity, which is our own history full of desires and anguish. Seeing See-Hee trying to erase herself to become someone else is an intention that we know is not possible since the body is not only an external something, nor is it internal. It has neither outside nor inside. Memories cannot be built, we carry them, they are only ours as the only evidence of our existence in the world, from ourselves and before others.
The face is the only part of my body that I cannot see, other than in the mirror. The face is not a representation, but a re-presented presentation, it is what is visible to the other, the immediate.
It is what bases the human in mankind. This face, a product of past time, is the piece of continuity, trapped in the temporal flow, it carries time and circulates meaning, it is the place of inscription of my world, the place of exchange where the invisible becomes visible. Where we inaugurate our relationships with the other and with the world.
By touching, we try to establish a contact with the primordial sense, the foundation of human sensibility, a form of rational knowledge, a kind of reflection, man can touch the other through touch, the act of touching also makes the impression of being touched by the one who is touched. It is a reciprocity and the beginning of the vital process of knowing the exterior, discovering the existence of things and thereby confirming the possession of the same body.
Although at times this cinema seems complex when it is not clear to distinguish cause and effect, the before and after, that is, if perception is the main cause of our memory or is memory the one that activates our perception? The tension that is caused allows the opening towards a time dimension that takes place between memory and imagination, image and memory.
But this position leads to the most important question, we cannot think of the body without time, nor can we perceive a time without a body. Time becomes the only place that allows the expansion of man, man is the place of expansion of time. However, the face is not something “already built”.
The face is not the human in general, but the human in particular, in individuality, in the construction of a subject-object of desire, it is the desire of the need for a face. If this face bears a name, the face of the crowd is a face without a name, like a mixture of anonymity and essential humanity. To renounce the face is to return to the abstraction of anonymity.
The loneliness that many of us have experienced has given us the opportunity to be with ourselves, having to live and feel the passage of time, we can observe and feel that despite everything, what we are is shaped by our stories and the evocation of memories of life lived and creating new memories every day. We must face the evolutionary leap of man, destroy the image and imagination out of the desire and the singular rationality to extract from reality, the partial construction of our identity through the gaze of others, contradict the so-called natural rules and go to assuming the world of transformation, states of permanence and hesitation, of confusion and doubts about oneself and enjoy our present lives by letting go perennial present caused by constant repetition and assumed as recycled time.
Feeling that we are out of adjustment with the present that we live, leaves us with only one path left, the transformation of reality to adjust it to this need to distance ourselves from it, from the rest of the senses and from that external time, that which has been ruling us for so long. Let us love our face, our life, our history, let us tell others our story and look deep inside the gazes of others, those that are the reflection and encounters with other souls.
Words: Judith Sacal
Pictures: © Sony Pictures Classics
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