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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
Yong-Kyun Bae is an art professor at a university in Korea. "Dharma" was virtually a solo effort by him and it took ten years to complete. The movie has little plot to speak of, and consists of a series of images, a slide show of moving images about a man's path to Enlightenment. They are strikingly beautiful and force the viewer to contemplate one's own life and existence. On the surface, all of the images are serene but underneath them lie deep power and a palpable spiritual yearning. As one reviewer aptly put it, "This movie is not about Zen, it is Zen."
Bae has made a second movie which was released in 1997. It is also very contemplative but unfortunately is nearly incomprehensible.
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