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S. Waite Rawls III
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Three people live in a remote Buddhist monastery near Mount Chonan: Hyegok, the old master; Yong Nan, a young man who has left his extended family in the city to seek enlightenment - Hyegok calls him Kibong!; and, an orphan lad Haejin, whom Hyegok has brought to the monastery to raise as a monk. The story is mostly Yong Nan's, told in flashbacks: how he came to the monastery, his brief return to the city, his vacillation between the turbulence of the world and his hope to overcome passions and escape the idea of self. We also see Hyegok as a teacher, a protector, and a father figure, and we watch Haejin make his way as a curious and nearly self-sufficient child. Written by
I first saw this film several years ago, and I was told that it was so hard to understand. Then I studied more about Zen Buddhism, and slowly but surely, I did begin to understand.
The movie is considered the best film about Buddhism, and rightly so. The director, a professor at the Buddhist Dongguk University in Seoul, took seven years to make it and used non-actors to play the parts.
He recently remastered the image and dialogue in a new DVD release, but unfortunately, no extras or featurettes. This film is one of the greatest made, and I feel sorry that it hasn't gotten the proper DVD treatment it deserves.
Nonethless, this movie is a meditation about Buddhism, life and death, and our raison d'etre. Definitely not to be missed.
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