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Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, . . . and Spring: DISCUSSION-2

  1. Did you notice that for each season there was a different animal on the temple: first the puppy, then chicken, then cat, then snake, and then turtle. Did you see any significance to the changing landscape of animals—and perhaps their symbolism? SEE NOTES ON SYMBOLIC ANIMALS
  2. Throughout the film there were scenes of characters either alone or with others in the rowboat. What role did the rowboat play in the film? In what ways was it a symbolic object?
  3. Notice that snakes seemed to play a role in almost every section of the film. In the first section of the film, the boy encounters a snake, tosses it aside, and continues picking herbs. Later, he ties a stone around the snake’s body—and the snake dies when the stone weighs him down. In Summer the teenaged boy sees snakes writhing on the ground as they mate. In Fall, the old monk commits suicide, and a snake can be seen swimming in the water—away from the boat. In Winter the snake has taken up residence in the temple. What do you think the snake meant in this film?
  4. In the temple the space for sleeping was not marked off with walls and doors. Instead, there was a door to each sleeping area, and the area around the door was left open. Then why did the old monk always enter and depart through the door—when he could just as easily have walked around the door—through the open space? And when the young man (in Summer) walked around the door for the first time (to climb into bed with the young woman), why did you know that he had somehow violated something important?
  5. There were three images of characters wearing something over their faces. Early in the segment Fall the young man placed rice paper over his face with the word SHUT written on the paper; at the end of Fall the old monk did the same before committing suicide; and in Winter the mother wore a veil covering her face. Did you see any significance in these three images?
  6. One critic noted that the film “uses the title's seasonal metaphor to track the phases of life and the lessons brought by the experiences of childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and old age.” What do you think was the reason for structuring the film this way?
  7. Why is it the case that in all but oneo segment of the film is a character entirely alone? (The exception was the new monk in Winter, working out and outfitting the temple—before the young woman arrives with her child. What was especially significant about “youth and age together” in these scenes?
  8. What magical powers did you notice that the old monk possessed in each of the first three sections of the film? What scene showed the culmination of those magical powers?
  9. What does the temple represent in this film—especially to the characters that interact within (the old monk, the main character, the young woman, and the woman with baby)? EXAMINE SYMBOLIC SPACES THROUGHOUT THE FILM


  1. The Buddha taught the four Noble Truths: the truth that all life is suffering, that suffering comes from desire, that desire can cease, and that the cessation of desire is to practice the Noble Eightfold Path (wisdom, morality, and concentration). Once the individual attained the highest level in the Eightfold Path, that person achieved the highest level of concentration—or Samadhi—and then was ready to experience Nirvana. How does the Buddha’s teaching relate to the story in this film?
  2. In Mahayana Buddhist philosophy a bodhisattva has the compassionate determination to aid all beings on their quest for the highest state of development, full enlightenment of a Buddha. Remaining in this world of uncontrolled rebirth (samsara), the Bodhisattva has taken a vow to achieve Buddhahood as quickly as possible and thereby be most able to teach wisdom until all beings have likewise achieved enlightenment. In brief, simply imagine the Bodhisattva as saying, "If I know how to swim, and even one other being cannot, then I will remain behind in this world to assist them until they know how to save themselves from drowning.” The word bodhisattva is composed of two words 'bodhi' and 'sattva' both of which connote deeply spiritually meanings. Bodhi means "awakening" or "enlightenment," and sattva means "sentient being." The new monk, in Winter, carries a bodhisattva up to the mountains above the lagoon and sets it up on a stone base there. Why?

Film resource written by Robert Yahnke
Copyright, Robert E. Yahnke, 2009
Professor, Univ. of Minnesota
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