One of the finest Zen films made in Korea, this film by Jang Sun-Woo is certainly memorable and evocative. If the famous seeker Sudhana, who features in the last section of the Avataṁsaka Sūtra, was living in modern Korea, and he was going from unexpected teacher to teacher he might be called Son-jae, as the young boy is here.
After the death of his father, who was bringing him up, Son-jae is ostensibly seeking for his mother, whom he has never seen. He holds the swaddling cloth he was passed to his father in, in the hope that his mother may see it and recognise him. He wanders along the dirty and forlorn streets, workshops and markets of 1990s Korea in his search.
Along the way, he meets many people, who help him with his quest. They come in the form a drunken monk, a girl who at first makes fun of him, and later seduces him, a prisoner locked away for 40 years, the son of a besotted astronomer, and more. Each helps him come closer to his journey’s end, and teach him about life and death along the way.
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