Films are there mostly for entertainment. Once in a while, a film leaves me really baffled – in a very good way. After watching Lee Chang-dong’s ‘Burning,’ I have more questions than answers, and I actually had to read a very long thread on Reddit about it – something I very rarely do – to get some clarification, only for me to be more confused about it. There are so many scenes in the film, especially, in the beginning that, as you are watching, will not make sense. But Dang-chong put it there for a reason, and each of them form a small piece in a big puzzle, and by the end of the film, you are left to piece it all together. But, really, I have no idea what I just watched, and now I have this, ehem, burning desire to learn. Perhaps that is the real point of the film.
But on surface, the film is kind of a love triangle between Lee Jong-su (Yoo Ah-in) Shin Hae-mi (Jun Jong-seo) and Ben (Steven Yuen) Lee and Hae-mi are childhood friends, although it took a while for Lee to remember that. When Hae-mi goes to Africa, she comes back with Ben and we get an emotional tug-of-war between the three. Ben could be a psychopath who takes Hae-mi under his wing, and afterwards may be responsible for her disappearance. We don’t really know and part of the mystery here is looking for all the signs that point to some kind of conclusion for the viewer. I wish I could say that I have successfully put everything together, but I have not. Based on all the online discussion about the film, I think I have barely scratched the surface. But one thing is for sure, though: I have not stopped thinking about the film, its characters, and I am craving for some kind of resolution. I think this is an indication of how brilliant the film is. It makes you think and ponder.