Movie of the Week: Burning (2018)

Chang-dong Lee directs Ah-in Yoo, Steven Yeun and Jong-seo Jun in this mystery about an aimless young man who starts a relationship with an old school friend only for her to introduce him to a rich guy with a disturbing hobby.

One of those really pleasurable movie experiences where the less you know going in, the more you’ll get out of the subtle developments and twists. I’m guessing you haven’t seen this slacker thriller based on a Haruki Murakami short story just yet so I won’t spoil anything. It grips and leaves loose end tantalisingly open. Early on, Shin, a wannabe actress reveals that the trick to good mime is not noticing the object isn’t there. And throughout the film we are unsure of the true relationships between characters, whether a cat exists or a crime has even been committed. We just follow these vague yet enthralling loners as they meet each other, uncertain what is engineered, what is a lie and what is in ours and Jong-su’s paranoid imagination. There are bigger themes explored here than just an elusive, unsettling Hitchcockian thriller. Chang-dong Lee explores the fragility and substanceless of young millennials lifestyles in Korea, the economic disparities of the new class system of his country, the hangover from generational anger. There’s a brilliant damning sequence where a group interview at a warehouse entrance treats young workers as products to processed. But the film works best as a constantly shifting puzzle to solve with distractingly gorgeous pieces. All three lead actors are superb… Jong-seo Jun in particular in her debut gives a bright, fiery performance as Shin, one that screams both vulnerability and desirability. She has to, as like our feckless detective, we need to feel her absence and yearn for her return whenever she disappears from the plot. This is a thoughtful, playful, wholemeal thriller out of step with our impatient times but fully aware of current issues. Catch it!

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