Malila: The Farewell Flower

Malila: The Farewell Flower ★★★★

First half is an elegantly told romance, in both its past and its rekindling after painful experiences on both sides, but the pacing is maybe a bit too sedate for this material. That pacing is perfect and so contemplatively soul-stirring though in the second half, where the film mines that romance for full power in its tale of Buddhism, and how one man deals with all the contradictions that arise when one enters into monkhood. What Kim Ki-Duk's Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring does in its cyclic seasonal nature, Malila does in short concentrated linear time, alternating its serenely hypnotic air with jolts of ugly realizations. Kim's structure and execution may make for a more complete (and better) film. But, full disclosure, my own one-month experience as exactly this type of Buddhist monk, with my own few-day stretch in wood area (albeit thankfully with temple to sleep in, and much more milder overall), makes Malila's exacting examination of its power more relatable, and thus where it ends up gets so much more intensely moving for me.