Burning (2018): Mysterious, Suspenseful, Slow and Extremely Gloomy | Korean Movie Review

Burning. The name gives off many meanings for what it can be. An action movie with burning buildings, a crime thriller with burning skins, or maybe a drama that involves burning emotional bridges. This movie is none of that.

‘Burning’ movie is somewhat mysterious and suspenseful but when dug deeper, it bounces between existentialism and nihilism. This Korean movie is an adaptation of the book ‘Barn Burning’ written by popular Japanese Writer Haruki Murakami and directed by Lee Chang-Dong.

Image Source: IMDb

Raging Jong Su: Calm Outside, Chaos Inside?

Lee Jong Su(Yoo Ah In), a country boy from Paju City is a creative writing graduate and wants to become a writer. He works as a delivery guy in Seoul City where he lives in a micro-apartment. He is passing his days with no certain goal. He always says that he wants to write a book but is rarely seen writing anything. His mother left his family at a young age, his sister is married and his father is a hot-headed farmer who is currently in Jail for assaulting another farmer.

Burning Movie Poster
Image Source: IMDb

Overall, Jong Su is quite a lonely guy with no family or friends. He is the protagonist. He lives a very ordinary life, like a nobody. But in near future, he is going to do something he would never have thought of.

Girl Burning With ‘The Big Thirst’

Jong Su meets Shin Haemi(Jeon Jong Seo) while on a delivery job. He doesn’t recognize her, that’s when she mentions that she had plastic surgery. She works as a dancer to give out raffle tickets outside a store through activities. It is not a full-time job. She loves it because she can work whenever she wants. She is under a lot of debt but that’s what she’s least concerned about. She learns pantomime and goes on random trips around the world.

She is erratic, dynamic, and free. Everything she does, project her will to become one with the universe. She is looking for the meaning in life in all the things that she does. After her trip back from South Africa, she talks about the small thirst and the big thirst. Small thirst is material desires like money, house, clothes, food while big thirst is the desire to find the reason behind living. She also learned the dance that “The people from bushes” do while trying to appease their big thirst.

Does Ben really burn the greenhouses?

Haemi comes back from South Africa with a man called Ben(Steven Yeun). He is rich, drives a Porsche, lives in a big condo but never reveals his profession. He and Haemi start to hang out together. Jong Su never thought that he would lose his only friend (with benefits) to some other guy, he is seen taken aback at the airport scene where he is first introduced to Ben.

Jong Su could understand why Haemi started dating Ben, it’s because of his riches but would never understand why Ben would date a nobody like Haemi. However, Ben mentions in one scene that he finds Haemi interesting. Ben often class Jong Shin to hang out with them. All three of them develop a good friendship which is evident by the scene at Jong Su’s farmhouse in Paju where they chat together and that’s where Ben tells Jong Su that he burns a farmhouse every 2 months. Moreover, he came to Paju to scout one. After that day, Jong Su searches for a burnt farmhouse every day but doesn’t find one.

Burning Movie Explained

The first half of the movie runs slower but things start to get fired up in the second half. Burning is a metaphor in correlation with the lives of all Jong Su, Haemi, and Ben. Jong Su has a lot of things going inside of him but the burning flames always stay inside of him. Haemi is always looking outside to find her calling, she wishes to burn away. Ben, on the other hand, says that he literally burns away things but is he really burning things?

With the absence of many conversations, the movie sails on its background music which captures the emotion of the moment graciously. The movie ends leaving viewers to deduce it on their own. It is purely perceptional. The way you wi deduce the end will be the way you understood the movie.

Main Cast

burning jongsu
Yoo Ah In

Yoo Ah-In is a South Korean actor and creative director. He is active in the industry since 2003. His popular works include Punch, Secret Affair, Veteran, #Alive.

Jeon Jong Seo

Jeon Jong Seo is a South Korean Actress. She has won award for Best actress at 57th Baeksang Arts Awards for her film The Call.

Ben Burning
Steven Yeun

Steven Yeun is an American actor and producer. His popular works include The Walking Dead, Okja, Mayhem, Sorry To Bother You, Minari.

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