January 28, 2012


Turbulence #2

Why Has Bodhi-Dharma Left for the East?: A Zen Fable (1989)

(달마가 동쪽으로 간 까닭은? - Dalmaga dongjjok-euro gan ggadakeun?)

Details about the movie:

"To the disciple who asked about "Truth", without a word, he showed a flower."

The title of the film is a Zen Koan, a riddle asked that has no immediate or clear answer. Traditionally, the Zen master poses the koan to the disciple to force him, through contemplation, to greater awareness of reality.

The film’s name refers to Bodhidharma, a monk who travelled from India to the far East (China, Korea and Japan) to preach a doctrine of Enlightenment based exclusively on meditation.

Movie revolves around the life of three protagonists - Haejin, an orphan boy, Kibong, a young monk, and Hyegok, a Zen master.

Country: South Korea
Language: Korean
Genres: Drama
Release Date: 23 September 1989 (South Korea)
Opening Theater: Myeong Bo Theater, Cine House Hall 3
Also Known As: Why Did Bodhi-Dharma Leave for the East?

Running time: 175 minutes
Sound Mix: Mono
Color: Color

Directed by: Bae Yong-kyun
Produced by: Bae Yong-kyun Productions
Written by: Bae Yong-kyun
Starring: Yi Pan-Yong, Sin Won-Sop, Hae-Jin Huang

Music by: Jin Gyu-yeong
Cinematography: Bae Yong-kyun
Editing by: Bae Yong-kyun
Budget: Low


- Film took seven years to complete, using a single camera, and was edited entirely by hand by Bae Yong-kyun. This is the only movie he has made till date. Some scenes were shot over sixty times, while others had to be postponed till the following year due to a change in seasons. Sometimes, only two or three cuts could be filmed within a single day.

- All of the characters were played by amateur actors, Bae Yong-kyun, director of the movie did it so to have a greater control over what he wanted to achieve through the medium of cinema.

- Original running time of the movie was 2 hours and 50 minutes, but the theatrical version was cut short to 2 hours and 15 minutes.

Director’s Biography: (From: Milestone Films PDF)

Bae Yong-kyun was born in 1951 in Tae-Gu, Korea. As a young child, Bae dedicated himself to his two loves: painting and cinema. By the time he was 14, he had decided that someday he would make a movie. Bae went to the movies constantly as a youth, seeing one film more than fifty times. He especially loved and was influenced by the films of William Wyler, David Lean and Robert Bresson.

Throughout his troubled adolescence, Bae studied Buddhism and Asian philosophy. In an interview, he said of that period, “Hermann Hesse saved me.” For over a year during high school, Bae fled home and lived in absolute solitude as a hermit in the mountains.

After high school, Bae entered the Faculty of Fine Arts where he studied painting and art history. As a painter, Bae was strongly influenced by the French impressionists and surrealists. He also showed an uncommon talent for poetry and photography. Bae received his Doctorate and presently teaches painting at the Faculty.

Bae met his wife, fellow artist, Min Kyoung-myoung while studying at the Faculty of Fine Arts. She worked closely with him on the planning and editing of Why Has Bodhi-Dharma Left for the East?

Download this Document to learn more about the movie and director: Why has Bodhidharma left for the east?

Synopsis: Read here

Critical Reviews:

Attempts to express what is inexpressible and does it better than any previous film of this type.
- Dennis Schwartz, Ozus' World Movie Reviews - Read full Review

... one of the most physically beautiful films ever made, sumptuous and sensuous, full of delicate and quiet imagery.
- Sean Axmaker, MSN.com - Read full Review

a difficult movie of unorthodox pacing and presentation...
- Norm Schrager, Filmcritic.com - Read full Review

Last word:

"The film doesn’t deal with God but with people who suffer — prisoners of the links created by birth and death. A film thus which relates to us all." —Bae Yong-kyun

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