Archive for the ‘Burning (2018)’ Category

Blu-ray Cover.jpg

Distributor: Well Go USA

Release Date: March 05, 2019

Region: Region A

Length: 02:28:10

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 5.1 Korean DTS-HD Master Audio

Alternate Audio: 2.0 Korean Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English

Ratio: 2.39:1

Notes: This package also contains a DVD disc and a digital copy of the film.


“The story felt mysterious [and] nothing really happens in it, but… there was something very cinematic about that mysteriousness.” –Lee Chang-dong

Burning is a singular cinematic experience that seems to play by the rules of the slow-burn thriller, but Lee Chang-dong has merely added the veneer of a thriller to something that is much more mysterious and vastly more interesting. The basic plot follows Jongsu (Ah-in YOO), an alienated young introvert with a simmering rage burning somewhere deep inside the recesses of his mind who finds a friend and potential love interest in Haemi (Jong-seo JUN). Haemi seems to remember more about her childhood acquaintanceship with Jongsu than he does, and he questions the existence of the cat that she asks him to feed for her when she goes off on a trip. When she returns home from this trip with a man named Ben (Steven Yeun), it obviously bothers Jongsu and he is immediately suspicious of this wealthy and sophisticated young man. To be fair, it does seem that Ben showcases at least some of the personality traits of the textbook sociopath. Jongsu’s confusion about Ben’s relationship with Haemi is soon abandoned once she disappears, and these feelings are replaced with an obsessive need for answers as to her whereabouts. He finds that the answers to his questions are elusive and this is actually part of the point.

Jongsu’s alienation is a byproduct of living in a socially, financially, and politically divided world. It is relevant that his father’s dilapidated farm is located near the North Korean border and that Ben is mysteriously wealthy, but this is a situation that is relevant to most of the world’s population right now. It is a problem that penetrates the heart of what it is to be human. How can anyone expect to form lasting connections with people in a socially segregated environment? It is no wonder that the film is drenched in existential angst. For all of the monologues about “great hunger” (or searching for truth and meaning), Burning understands that it is this search that is important. The answers are unknowable. The inner thoughts and emotions of those around us are unreadable. Such ambiguity is the film’s main strength but it will probably limit the film’s appeal.

There will inevitably be many viewers who prefer to take their mystery with a side of neatly tied up answers, and the deliberate pacing will probably be interpreted by these people as “slow” (even though there is a distinct difference in a film that is “slow” and one that is “deliberately paced”). These people might prefer to opt for re-runs of Murder She Wrote.


The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

Well Go USA protects the Blu-ray and DVD discs in a standard 2-disc Blu-ray case with a sleeve featuring artwork based on the film’s primary US one sheet. It isn’t at all clear why they felt the need to crop the image on all four sides, but it is nice that they used their original design as it is an attractive image.


The menu begins as a short video clip and morphs into a static image with the typical menu options. It’s an attractive presentation.


Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

This is a nice high definition transfer that represents the original 2K DI master rather nicely. The encode is nicely rendered and there aren’t any noticeable digital artifacts or compression to distract the discerning viewer. Meanwhile, there is an appropriate level of fine detail on display and clarity is reasonably strong throughout most of the duration. There certainly aren’t any glaring issues to discuss, and any weaknesses that one might perceive are the direct result of the original cinematography.


Sound Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is fairly strong and reasonably immersive throughout the duration (at least for such a low key film). Fidelity is certainly never an issue. It is difficult to judge the clarity of the dialogue since the language spoken throughout the duration of the film is predominantly Korean, but it sounds as if the dialogue is given the appropriate amount of priority within the mix.


Special Features:

1 of 5 Stars

About the Characters – (02:29)

This short clip is built mostly from “behind the scenes” footage and interview soundbites, but it is not given a chance to offer anything truly instructive. To say it isn’t comprehensive is an understatement. It is merely an EPK fluff piece. This seems a shame since Burning deserves quite a bit more.

Teaser Trailer – (00:58)
International Trailer – (01:21)
Theatrical Trailer – (01:49)

It is nice to have these three trailers included on the disc (especially since there aren’t any other supplements included).


Final Words:

Those who enjoy films by David Lynch won’t find Lee Chang-dong’s Burning particularly challenging as it is actually rather straight forward and far less esoteric than most of Lynch’s work. However, those who feel that riddles should have well-defined answers might prefer more mainstream entertainments. In either case, this Blu-ray is a great way to experience the film in one’s home environment.