Frustrating but masterfully crafted. Burning is a well-made mystery but I also can’t help feeling annoyed at how ambiguous the story is. In a strange way, there’s enough plot to keep me invested but not enough to make me satisfied. Ultimately, I’m left wanting but I also know that’s exactly the point.
So how can I hate something for not giving me more just because it’s perfectly set up to not give me more but enough that I need? And the fact that it’s so meticulously crafted makes it only worse because that’s the part of me that loves it.
Anyways, for those wondering what on earth I’m going on about, Burning follows the life of young Lee Jong-su, who by sheer luck runs into Shin Hae-mi, an old childhood neighbour. The two strike up a small romance before Hae-mi introduces Jong-su to her friend Ben (yes, that’s his very South-Korean name). From then on, things begin to slowly unravel as their friendship becomes twisted through a veil of ambiguity.
That’s as best as I can put it for a film that’s so open-ended that trying to write a synopsis for it is difficult; much like my experience watching this film. I wanted to love Burning more but couldn’t. The film purposely chooses to keep me at arm’s length and prevents me from seeing more. It’s a tease without any real reward but enough to keep me interested.
Perhaps this is one that needs more than one rewatch. Maybe there could be (extremely) minor details that I pick up which will help relieve my itch for more.
In either case, I still respect how masterfully crafted Burning is. So even though I was frustrated while watching it, it’s nevertheless a great film. If anything, it’s worth watching just for the performances and cinematography alone. In particular, Steve Yuen from The Walking Dead is a highlight and is fantastic as Ben.
See this if you’re interested in mystery or have watched other South Korean dramas like Memories of Murder. Others have critically acclaimed it and think its genius. Some not so much. I guess you’ll have to make up your mind yourself.