Burning. 2018. South Korea. Directed by Lee Chang-dong. Written by Lee Chang-dong and Oh Jung-mi. Based on Haruki Murakami’s short story “Barn Burning.” With Yoo Ah-in, Jeon Jong-seo, Steven Yeun. DCP. In Korean; English subtitles. 148 min.
A noir-ish love triangle goes up in flames in this liberal adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s enigmatic short story. An aspiring writer, Jong-su, is drawn to Hae-mi, whose flirty, dreamy presence mystifies him. When she takes off for a long trip and returns with the handsome, equally opaque Ben, Jong-su is pulled into a world entirely unfamiliar to him. Lee Chang-dong’s first directorial effort in eight years (since Poetry) is a finely crafted study of existential angst and mysterious desires. Steven Yeun delivers a knockout performance as Ben, projecting pleasantry, hollowness, and menace in equal measure. A unanimous critics’ favorite, the film was named among the best of the year by The New York Times, Cahiers du Cinéma, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, Film Comment, Indiewire, and a host of others.