Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring (2003) – directed by Kim Ki-dukSSFWS_10

Apparently a simple main theme – cyclicity of life – introduces an entire system of Buddhist symbols, an extremely beautiful imagery and almost complete lack of dialogues (characteristic for this director).

In the game of decyphering the code:

Some say it may represent the Consciousness, while the waters of the lake are the Unconsciousness.

The doors by the lakeside and in the hut are symbolic rather than prescriptive. The fact there are no walls means their use is not forced but elected. They represent morality and discipline. Morality is not defined by a higher power but by society and the self. By adopting the constraints the doors engender, self-discipline is attained.


The animal symbolism of the film is obvious. At the beginnig of each „season” a different animal appears at the temple.
The Master allows the young boy to let some of the animals die, allowing him to make mistakes and suffer the consequences. He promotes self-awareness.

Turtles symbolize long life.


The millstone and the statue of the saint carried to the top of the hill point to the young man’s karma. The statue represents Bodhisattva, known as Kannon in China, Japan and Korea, and as Avolokitesvara to pretty much the rest of the Buddhist world. She is the Buddha of Compassion, her job being to heal and offer compassion to all sentient beings. The monk carried her to try and develop more compassion for others, especially those who he had killed (the fish, the snake, the girl, the rock he dragged relating to the metaphorical rock he carried in his heart.

He does not lecture. Hardly a word is spoken, but lessons are learned. A good teacher points the way for a student to discover self-evident knowledge for themselves.

The inscriptions the young man puts on his face when thinking of suicide is the same with the one the master uses before diyng: „SHUT”. It may be linked to the following lines in the Heart Sutra:

„No eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind;
no color, no sound, no smell, no taste, no touch,
no object of mind;
no realm of eyes
and so forth until no realm of mind consciousness.”


As the student carved out the letters with the bloody knife, the blood from his dead lover wore off and was replaced by the blood of his own.

The sutra he carves is the Prajnamparamitra Sutra or the Heart Sutra. It is one of the most important teachings in Mahayana Buddhism and Korean Buddhism. It says a lot of the basic principals of Buddhism such as „emptiness is form, form is emptiness”. It is about knowing perfect wisdom and is chanted three times a day in Buddhist monasteries. It seems this movie is actually an illustration of this sutra.


The entire film deals with the theme of being tied or held back, (the tied animals, the tied boy, being in jail, his return to the lake, the man tied as punishment, the way the boat was held in place by the master). And yet, the cycle of life goes on without fail.

And the game may continue. A helpful source is:


This movie can easily be compared to Pavel Lungin’s Ostrov, both belonging to the same category of cinematographic sermons.


~ de AlinaT pe 16/11/2009.

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  1. Reblogged this on The grokking eagle.

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