Skip to main content
A Magazine for

Burning

303 1550661496

"What you do isn't make yourself believe that there are tangerines there; you forget that the tangerines are not there," Hae-mi (Jong-seo Jun) says about her pantomime routine to her estranged childhood neighbor, Jong-su (Ah-in Yoo), when meeting him years later. This quote comes early in the movie Burning, with an aura of importance that plants it deep in the viewer's mind to try to find its meaning in the shape of things to come.

Meanwhile Hae-mi and Jong-su have sex, then she travels to Africa on a relief mission and he starts feeding her cat. Hae-mi does not return alone from her trip. The strikingly handsome and mysteriously rich Ben (Steven Yeun) is with her and seems to have already enamoured her with his intelligence and seamless manners. Jealousy starts to boil in Jong-su and things start to escalate. It ends with a crime that might or might not have happened. It only matters that Jong-su knows there hasn't not been one.

Directed by Chang-dong Lee and based on Haruki Murakami's short story, Burning is a mesmerising experience. It's a slow but sure movie that does not hold any clear answers, while dazzling the viewer with a relentless character study, spot-on acting and beautiful shots. It's the sort of movie you feel like you can smell and touch.

For some it might seem like it's lacking in the third act and doesn't reward the viewer enough for all the subtle mysteries it unfolds throughout its 148-minute runtime. I would argue against that. Burning is so aptly titled, because just like a greenhouse set on fire, the enthralling experience of seeing it all come down does not end with a bang or with anything resembling a resolution. This movie knows that and leaves the spectator only with ashes.

Related articles