‘Burning’ is a film that gets under your skin, weaving a tale that’s at times chilling, at others a deeply resonant celebration of character and tone.
Korean auteur Lee Chang-dong has been a fixture on the festival circuit for decades. His ‘Oasis’, ‘Secret Sunshine’, ‘Peppermint Candy’ and ‘Poetry’ received many plaudits. His latest film twists the crime drama into a ruminative exploration of the human connections between three individuals – the quiet and awkward Jong-soo (You Ah-in); the dashing, Porsche-driving Ben (Steven Yeun); and the bubbly, intoxicating Hae-mi (Jun Jong-seo) who dances her way into the lives of both men.
Based on a short story by Japanese master novelist Haruki Murakami, the story is one of quiet intrigue. The integration of the lives of these three characters drives the film’s central themes. Along the way, we’re presented with mysteries both overt and more philosophical, as heady topics that run the gamut from the core of ethical behavior through to Schrödinger-like narrative puzzles about feline existence (or lack thereof) in a spare apartment.
The story moves effortlessly through its tonal shift, migrating between eroticism, social awkwardness, boilerplate noir mysteries and even darker genre elements. Going in as cold as possible is certainly the best way to discover the charms of the film, which will be highly rewarding for the patient.