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WHY HAS BODHI DHARMA LEFT FOR THE EAST?
1989 - Bae Yong Kyun
South Korea
86
Opening Shot

"To the disciple who asked about the Truth without a word he showed a flower." After this opening title card the film begin with a tight shot of a man waiting at a railroad crossing (a red blinking light of the train crossing in the right corner of the screen and the man waiting to the left)...

The Film

Korean filmmaker Bae Yong-kyun took over seven years to complete his first feature film, the 1989 masterpiece Why Has Bodhi Dharma Left for the East?, which he directed, wrote, produced, shot, and edited. The film is one of the most beautiful ever made, but its beauty lies in the unforced simplicity of the imagery. The film is centered around Zen Buddhism yet it holds a universal relationship to us all in the reflection of samsara, of existence, of life and death. The films great achievement is that it does not reflect this with any messages but rather it simply is such, more then it is about such. Why Has Bodhi Dharma Left for the East? Takes on a spiritual level that transcends the film into a meditative experience that connects on an internal level. Through this spiritually internal journey, and the films breathtaking imagery, it becomes above all a search for inner peace and a world in which love overcomes selfishness , arrogance, and ignorance. Almost without plot and a slow moving pace, the films simplicity, beauty, and worldly wonder, make it one of the greatest films of all-time.

The Filmmaker

Having only seen his 1989 debut film (1989s Why Has Bodhi Dharma Left for the East?) it is difficult to know much about South Korean-born Bae Yong-kyun. Reading some more background information on the filmmaker I learned he keeps a private life and has refused many offers to make more films. He studied arts in both France and Korea and started working in films as an assistant director in 1976. Growing up, Bae watched many films and mostly admired the work of films by Robert Bresson, William Wyler, and David Lean. At the age of 30 he decided to start making his own film by scouting locations, gathering equipment, and writing a screenplay (which he wrote in novel form). Almost eight years later it was completed and oddly was released, debuting at the Toronto Film Festival in 1989. Bae was since made one other film (1995's The People in White), but sadly it is a very difficult film to find available anywhere.

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