Passage to Buddha


Passage to Buddha


For the third meeting of the season Things from the Other world. Cinema and religion in Asia, the Buddhism Studies Centre takes us to the south of Korea with the fifth work by the director Jang Sun Woo entitled Hwa-Om-Kyung

This time the Buddhism Studies Centre suggests us a Korean film of 1993 entitled “Hwa-Om-Kyung (Passage to Buddha)”, directed by Jang Sun Woo and winner of the Alfred Bauer Prize at the Berlin Festival in 1994.
Jang Sun Woo, not so appreciated in his country, seems a very provocative and controversial artist because of the subjects he deals with in his works, sometimes even labelled as pornographic.
The film at issue is made out of a book written by the famous Korean writer and monk Ko Un, and it is an allegoric journey started by the little Seon Jae looking for his mother.
As professor Chiara Ghidini explains during the film presentation, “Hwa-Om-Kyung” is a work on Buddhism (and not a Buddhist work) and on the modern world. It is a work on Buddhism because the protagonist Seon Jae’s journey is the one told in the Avatamsaka sutra (the Flower Garland sutra, around the V century B.C.) looking for the Buddhism essence.
During his journey, Seon Jae meets people who will contribute to his forming and will mark his interior way towards “Buddhity”, that is to say the state of Buddha, the absolute consciousness. These people, most belonging to the least leisured social classes, will lead the protagonist to come up against the price, from the environmental and human point of view, of the economic and social development of the country at poor people expense.
In this lies the fact that Passage to Buddha is a film about the modern world, since the director was able to transpose in current terms some of the basic Buddhism concepts.
In conclusion, that of Jang Sun Woo represents one of the possible approaches to the Buddhism essence through a kind of cinema mindful of the problems of the contemporary Korean society and which does not restrain from provoking the audience from several points of view, in particular the moral one.

Davide Aliberti, Traduzione di Luisa Lupoli