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Did anyone mention this excellent Buddhist movie?

Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall... and Spring (2004)

SYNOPSIS

The exquisitely beautiful and very human drama SPRING, SUMMER, FALL, WINTER… AND SPRING, starring director KIM Ki-duk, is entirely set on and around a tree-lined lake where a tiny Buddhist monastery floats on a raft amidst a breath-taking landscape. The film is divided into five segments with each season representing a stage in a man's life. Under the vigilant eyes of Old Monk (wonderful veteran theatre actor OH Young-soo), Child Monk learns a hard lesson about the nature of sorrow when some of his childish games turn cruel. In the intensity and lushness of summer, the monk, now a young man, experiences the power of lust, a desire that will ultimately lead him, as an adult, to dark deeds. With winter, strikingly set on the ice and snow-covered lake, the man atones for his past actions, and spring starts the cycle anew… With an extraordinary attention to visual details, such as using a different animal (dog, rooster, cat, snake) as a motif for each section, writer/director/editor KIM Ki-duk has crafted a totally original yet universal story about the human spirit, moving from Innocence, through Love and Evil, to Enlightenment and finally Rebirth.

SPRING

The wooden doors of a gated threshold open on a small monastery raft that floats upon the tranquil surface of a mountain pond. The hermitage's sole occupants are an Old Monk (OH Young-soo) and his boy protégé Child Monk (KIM Jong-ho). While exploring the world in and around their secluded idyll, Child Monk indulges in the capricious cruelties of boyhood. After tying stones to a fish, a frog, and a snake, Child Monk awakens to find himself fettered by a large stone Old Monk has bound to him. The old man calmly instructs the boy to release the animals, promising him that if any of the creatures die "you'll carry the stone in your heart for the rest of your life.”

SUMMER

The doors open again on Boy Monk now aged 17 (SEO Jae-kyung) who meets a woman (KIM Jung-young) making a pilgrimage with her spiritually ill daughter (HAYeo-jin). "When she finds peace in her soul," Old Monk reassures the mother, "her body will return to health." The girl awakens desire in Boy Monk and the sensual flirtation between the two of them culminates in passionate lovemaking on pond-side rocks. After a furtive but tender tryst in the abbey's rowboat, the lovers are discovered by Old Monk. The girl, now healed, is sent back to her mother. Forsaking his monastery home, the infatuated Boy Monk follows her.

FALL

Long absent from the monastery, Young Adult Monk (KIM Young-Min), now a thirty year old fugitive, returns to the abbey raft still consumed by a jealous rage that has compelled him to commit a violent crime. When Young Adult Monk attempts penitence as cruel as his misdeed, Old Monk punishes him. The Old Monk instructs Young Adult Monk to carve Pranjaparpamita (Buddhist) sutras into the hermitage's deck in order to find peace in his heart. Two policemen arrive at the abbey to arrest Young Adult Monk but thanks to Old Monk, they let Young Adult Monk continue carving the sutras. Young Adult Monk collapses from exhaustion and the two policemen finish decorating the sutras before taking Young Adult Monk into custody. Alone again, Old Monk prepares a ritual funereal pyre for himself.

WINTER

The doors open on the now frozen pond and abandoned monastery. The now mature Adult Monk (played by director KIM Ki-duk) returns to train himself for the penultimate season in his spiritual journey-cycle. A veiled woman arrives bearing an infant that she leaves in Adult Monk's care. In a pilgrimage of contrition, Adult Monk drags a millstone to the summit of a mountain overlooking the pond. As he gazes down on the pond that buoys the monastery and the mountainsides that gently hold the pond like cupped hands, Adult Monk acknowledges the unending cycle of seasons and the accompanying ebb and flow of life's joys and sorrows.

... AND SPRING The doors open once again on a beautiful spring day. Grown from a child to a man and from a novice to a master, Adult Monk has been reborn as teacher for his new protégé. Together, Adult Monk and his young pupil are to start the cycle anew….

DIRECTOR'S STATEMENT

"I intended to portray the joy, anger, sorrow and pleasure of our lives through four seasons and through the life of a monk who lives in a temple on Jusan Pond surrounded only by nature." -- KIM Ki-duk

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There haven't been many Hollywood movies about Buddhism or relating to Buddhism. The ones I remember are:

Siddartha : A weak 1970s movie based on the popular Hermann Hess book. Starred Bollywood heartthrob, Shashi Kapoor as the Buddha.

Kundun : Very interesting biography of the Dalai Lama made by Martin Scorsese (who also filmed the controversial Last Temptation of Christ) in 1997. An excellent film, almost like a thriller towards the end, it doesn't go too deeply into Buddhist principles. But non-violence is a prominent theme and it does show the "exotic" side of Tibetan Buddhism, such as the Oracle and the making of sand mandalas.

The Little Buddha : This 1994 movie from Bernardo Bertolucci tells the story of the Buddha and makes it accessible to modern audiences using the story of a search for a reincarnated lama in Seattle and Katmandu. Not a bad effort at giving westerners an idea of what Buddhism is about, but it's a bit hard to take Keanu Reeves as the Buddha. I suppose they needed a star, and chose him because he's a Buddhist and has a vaguely eastern appearance due to his Hawaian ancestry. Bertolucci made movies about fascism and communism back in the 70s and 80s.

Seven Years in Tibet : Apparently the story of an Austrian Nazi whose life was changed by Tibet and the Dalai Lama. Filmed by Jean-Jacques Annaud. I haven't seen it.

Are there any others? I guess films about Buddhism would be a hard sell to a mass audience in the West.

Based on the movies I have seen, the ones which impressed me most is Bae Yong-Kyun's "Why has Bodhidharma Left for the East" (BLFTE) followed by "The Little Buddha" and an old film titled "The Lost Horizon" also known as the Shangri-La film.

The first (BLFTE) because of the simplicity and moving message conveyed in the film, cheap (price-wise) production, no frills, thrills nor stunts. For a film with very little dialogue, the story is told almost without the human voice, rendering a Zen-like tapestry of simplicity yet having a profound effect on the viewer's emotions. Another reason for liking this movie is that it was produced by a Korean without Hollywood pretensions.

The Little Buddha with a costly production budget is a cacpphony of sound, colour, stunning imagery with commercial considerations in the making of the movie. Nonetheless the setting in a Tibetan monastery and the great non-affected acting by the monks resident there make for an enjoyable movie skillfully melded together by a great Italtian director.

The third movie "The Lost Horizon" is a musical based on James Hilton's book about the survivors of an aircrash who stumble upon the lost world of Shangri-La, a beautiful place where dreams come true and where people live up to hundreds of years. The setting reminds one of Tibet and scenes of distinctly "Buddhist" monks evoke scenes of the Himalayas. Eventually some of the survivors return to the "real" world. Actors in this film include John Gielgud, Peter Finch, James Shigeta and Liv Ullman. This is truly a classic as it was one of the first Hollywood films which featured and focused on the ways and lives of those who lived in Asia with a distinct Buddhist flavour.

BLFTE was bought as a VHS videotape from Amazon while The Lost Horizon was available in VHS from the video shop many years ago.

I have also viewed "Dharma River" and "Prajna Earth" on DVD available from www.directpictures.com and whist the cinematography was impressive and stunning at times, it left me the impression that it was completed in a hurry and something was missing which I can't quite put a finger on. Perhaps it would dawn on me after a few repeat viewings.

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why has bodhi dharma left for the east?

that really is a fantastic movei

Id say not a movie ABOUT buddhism, but a BUDDHIST MOVIE.

pulls it off. amazing.

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There is a new Documentary about an English Buddhist monk called "Lost in Lane"

http://www.poppoli.com/lostinlane.html

"SYNOPSIS (long)

It´s 1981. A boy at the age of 18 travels from England to Thailand to become a Buddhist monk.

Robert Eddison was born and raised in Nottingham. He had always had the feeling of being a Buddhist and started to practise from an early age. His teacher advised him to seek further guidence, leading Robert to a monastery in Thailand.

His plan to stay there for several months became a decade.

During his years in Thailand he corresponded with buddhists from all over the world. His life was transformed when he decided to visit one of his penpals in Iceland. There he found thousands of Buddhists who had immmigrated to this cold country in the north. He was asked to stay there to serve their religous needs, a task he happily accepted. Suddenly Robert became the only Buddhist monk in Iceland and started a formal religous movement in 1995.

Robert’s life was transformed again when he travelled to Kazakstan to visit a space station to celebrate the end of the millenium. Robert had always been interested in space travels and that interest led him to the suprise of his life. He fell in love with an aerobic instructor in Kazakstan, asked her to come with him to Iceland and marry him. That she did, and Robert disrobed after sixteen years of monkhood.

His marriage lastest for five months. He separated and started to work as a security guard. In few months Robert was transformed from a naïve monk to a “normal” person. Encountering the challenge of wearing pants, paying bills, as well as dealing with the headaches from the opposite sex.

His visit to the “normal world” ended in May 2004 when he travelled to Thailand to become Dhammanando again.

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There is a new Documentary about an English Buddhist monk called "Lost in Lane"

http://www.poppoli.com/lostinlane.html

"SYNOPSIS (long)

It´s 1981. A boy at the age of 18 travels from England to Thailand to become a Buddhist monk.

Robert Eddison was born and raised in Nottingham. He had always had the feeling of being a Buddhist and started to practise from an early age. His teacher advised him to seek further guidence, leading Robert to a monastery in Thailand.

His plan to stay there for several months became a decade.

During his years in Thailand he corresponded with buddhists from all over the world. His life was transformed when he decided to visit one of his penpals in Iceland. There he found thousands of Buddhists who had immmigrated to this cold country in the north. He was asked to stay there to serve their religous needs, a task he happily accepted. Suddenly Robert became the only Buddhist monk in Iceland and started a formal religous movement in 1995.

Robert’s life was transformed again when he travelled to Kazakstan to visit a space station to celebrate the end of the millenium. Robert had always been interested in space travels and that interest led him to the suprise of his life. He fell in love with an aerobic instructor in Kazakstan, asked her to come with him to Iceland and marry him. That she did, and Robert disrobed after sixteen years of monkhood.

His marriage lastest for five months. He separated and started to work as a security guard. In few months Robert was transformed from a naïve monk to a “normal” person. Encountering the challenge of wearing pants, paying bills, as well as dealing with the headaches from the opposite sex.

His visit to the “normal world” ended in May 2004 when he travelled to Thailand to become Dhammanando again.

It looks like this film pay also be called "Act Normal"

There is a trailer available at:

http://www.poppoli.com/actnormal.html

Bankei

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Looks like a fascinating documentary, hope to see it someday. Maybe it will make the next Bangkok International Film Festival.

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The Matrix. :o

Second that! The most Buddhist films aren't necessarily labelled as such.

I recently had to help my Cambodian niece with a comparative religion school assignment -- like most Cambodians (and arguably many Thais) she knew only the ritualistic aspectys of her religion. After I explained the basics to her as best I could, she said "Oh, I get it -- it's like the Matrix!"

The line in the final episodes about "everything that has a beginning has an end"is actually a play on the Buddha's final words...sabbe sankhara annicum

And the very last words of the movie are a play on the reported last words of Christ. I particularly like the way the film blends Buddhist and selected Chrisitian concepts...(including a hefty dose of gnosticism, which seems to have gone beneath the radar of the anti-Da Vinci code folk!)

I've heard that the Kachowski brothers (?sp) are pretty wierd, but they certainly know a lot about various religious teachings.

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The Middle Path film series

by Sumati Mehrishi Sharma

Sian’s Cinefan is back — with its usual load of screen stunners. As many as 120 films from Algeria, Vietnam and a rare mix of Arabian fare, besides productions from Asia’s budding film industries are set to woo film buffs from July 14. But as with all good things, there’s a catch. Unlike in the past, there’s a price for this year’s ticket to escapism: Rs 20.

“We’re confident people will pay happily,” says an optimistic yet sheepish Neville Tuli, Osian’s CEO. “Aruna Vasudev, Cinemaya editor, who took the initiative seven years ago on a shoestring budget, feels it’s time we got some support from the audience,” he adds.

It may be a small price to pay for the fare on offer. Osian’s promises to be bigger and better, with events like the Talent Campus India 2006 for cinema students, exhibitions and auctions, and may well be on its way to becoming a major international event, believes Vasudev.

As for the movies, there’s The Middle Path, a collection of 12 films on Buddhism, and interesting co-productions like the Bhutan-USA venture, Milarepa. The Indian section has four Marathi films and an assortment of Bengali entries, while Dombivili Fast is a blood-boiler. Pan Nalin’s Valley of Flowers, which opens the fest, is full of Ladakh’s evocative scenery, while Rituparno Ghosh’s Dosar is part of the Asian competition.

With its history of showcasing steamy Hindi films, (remember the dash of skin show in Deepak Tijori’s Oops and Kamal Sadanah’s Karkash) this year’s Osian’s is getting a few “popular” multiplex films such as Being Cyrus, Mixed Doubles and the Naseeruddin Shah starrer Parzania.

Source: Delhi News Online

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There is an excellent documentary called The Story of the Weeping Camel about life in the Gobi Desert in Inner Mongolia and a family's attempts to get a camel to accept the colt it has rejected. It shows how the people of the desert live in harmony with nature. The family seems to be largely self-sufficient, in the way Ajahn Sulak Sivaraksa praises in his book, Conflict, Culture, Change. Half way through the film, two boys go to a distant town and we hear the ugly sounds of motorbikes and see people staring at TV screens. As they ride their camels home, the younger boy says, "I want a TV." The elder replies, "That would cost 20-30 sheep, and then you'd need electricty to power it... that would cost a whole flock!"

As for Ajahn Sulak's book, the first half about engaged Buddhism isn't that inspiring, but the later chapters about how Thailand embraced consumerism and lost its soul is pretty interesting.

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There is an excellent documentary called The Story of the Weeping Camel about life in the Gobi Desert in Inner Mongolia and a family's attempts to get a camel to accept the colt it has rejected. It shows how the people of the desert live in harmony with nature. The family seems to be largely self-sufficient, in the way Ajahn Sulak Sivaraksa praises in his book, Conflict, Culture, Change. Half way through the film, two boys go to a distant town and we hear the ugly sounds of motorbikes and see people staring at TV screens. As they ride their camels home, the younger boy says, "I want a TV." The elder replies, "That would cost 20-30 sheep, and then you'd need electricty to power it... that would cost a whole flock!"

As for Ajahn Sulak's book, the first half about engaged Buddhism isn't that inspiring, but the later chapters about how Thailand embraced consumerism and lost its soul is pretty interesting.

I've watched that film, very moving, one of the best cultural documentaries I've seen.

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Just to add my vote for The Matrix as one of the best Buddhist movies out there.

For explicitly Buddhist movies, The Cup is probably the most accessible and enjoyable. I found Kundun ponderous -- only for the hard core adherents perhaps. (I don't self-identify as a Buddhist, but I am more sympathetic to Buddhism that any other major religious tradition.)

Lost Horizon is also good, although it romanticizes the would-be Tibertan society almost to the point of parody. Still, that's what you would expect for that era.

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The Razor's Edge with Bill Murray also has a Buddhist theme. Not a great movie, but the idea of the spiritual seeker is conveyed effectively.

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