No, not the Hyundai Kona, although it does look quite sporty! I’m talking about the 2018 film directed by Chang-Dong Lee called BURNING (or BOENING ). I know, I know. A two and a half hour character study in subtitles might not be your idea of an after work chill viewing experience — but it should be. This is a slow, but very NOT BORING look into the lives of three twenty-somethings that live in and around Seoul. You will get no story synopsis here. Two Korean men (one played by Steven Yeun of WALKING DEAD and MAYHEM fame) and one young woman chat and hang in the Gangnam section of Seoul as well as the farmland outside of the city. What happens over the course of the film is quite intriguing, and open to interpretation.
I won’t mention what happens but I will say that one thing I got from this movie was a complete sense of place - of what parts of Seoul look like. The sense of the neighborhoods where two of the characters live. Also, I got the sense of rural South Korea. I’m not saying to see this only as a travelogue of a far off land, but it is a testament to the director that I have a sense of where people are geographically in the story. That is so rare in films. Sometimes, we’re just taken from one random place to another random place and we’re not supposed to care where it is. But I want to have that feeling I know where locations are in relation to each other. It gets me into the movie more. It’s like real life - I’m lost in one part of L.A., and the I find an area I’m familiar with and it fits together like a puzzle. "Oh, I know where am now!”. I got that sense of satisfaction when watching BURNING.
Of course, that’s not the crux of the story - but it helps tell the story. It’s a very accomplished film. The acting, writing, directing is all first-rate. And there is emotional heft aplenty. Next time you’re surfing Netflix and screaming there are 238 things on and nothing to watch, search for “Burning”. You’ll be taken on a trip — and that’s what the best of film does.