Why Has Bodhi-Dharma Left for the East? has been acclaimed by critics and audiences throughout the world as a film of remarkable power and beauty. In a remote mountain monastery above a bustling city, an old Zen master, his conflicted young apprentice, and an orphaned boy live a life of quiet contemplation. The old master, nearing his end, wishes to make the ceremony of his death his final lesson to his apprentice, who is struggling to come to terms with the worldly life he left behind. Meanwhile the young boy has his own awakening to mortality as he attempts to nurse a bird he thoughtlessly injured with a stone. The title of the film is a Zen koan— a paradox meant to aid meditation—that provokes the question of the distinction between leaving and arriving. This magnificent film, quietly powerful and astonishingly rich in formal beauty, is not only a cinematic gem, but an evocative meditation on the cyclical nature of existence. Why Has Bodhi-Dharma Left for the East? does not seek to explain the tenets of Zen Buddhism so much as illuminate the mysteries of life that lie behind them. —Milestone Films
Mr. Bae studied visual arts in South Korea and France, and he’s an art professor in Korea. His first and the only feature length film, “Why Has Bodhi-Dharma Left for the East?”, probably is the only film in Korean film history to be released abroad first. Its sudden debut caused quite a stir Korea, and only after a successful film festival cicuit tour in Europe, it made its screening in Korea. Despite high media and public attention, Bae remained and still remains unknown and mysterious. It is known, however, that it took more than 7 years to complete his film, and that he used his own resources for the film and did not use any professional actors. Offers from large film studios poured in, but Bae declined them and maintains a private life. —IMDb
As my body returns to its original condition, blood and pus from my wounds will fall as dew from the night sky. After all, I exist nowhere in the universe. But in the universe there is nothing which is not me.
How I wish to watch this film again, the nice people voting it today reminded me of how fond I was of it when it came out! I was 16 years old then and it was a completely new experience to me to be hypnotised by such a slow and meditative pace. I went to the cinema twice and the second time coming out of the cinema I felt I knew where I was going from then on.