Director: Im Kwon-taek
Cast: Ahn Sung-Ki, Jeon Moo-song, Bang Hee, Gi Jeong-su
Film genre: Drama
112 mins, 2018
Set in contemporary Korea, Mandala follows two rather different characters: Pob-un, a young Buddhist monk who has decided to quit his university studies and leave his doting girlfriend, instead embarking upon a search for answers regarding the futility of human existence, and Ji-san, an elderly, rather unconventional monk who indulges all life’s earthly pleasures, particularly alcohol. The two meet by chance on the road in rural Korea and together they start a journey of selfdiscovery, reflecting upon the issues of freedom of choice, religious devotion and enlightenment. Based on an eponymous bestselling book by Kim Seong-dong, Mandala was regarded as the breakthrough film of Im’s career, and was one of the rare Korean films of its time to also be screened internationally. A contemplative work that avoids clichés about religion and meditation, Mandala is one of Im’s two main works dealing with Buddhism (the other being Come Come Come Upward, 1989) and a truly poetic film, with its symbolism and imagery perfectly complemented.