Mandara (1981)

Director: Im Kwon Taek
Cast: Ahn Sung Ki, Chon Moo Song, and Kim Jong Su
Genre: Religion and Drama
Running Time: 105 minutes
Certi: 18 (South Korea)

Pobun, a genuine monk, meets Ji San, a monk who drinks, eat meat, and have fun with his lover. This film shows the different lives of two Buddhist monks. Looking into their interaction and lives throughout the film, Director Im presents individualism, religious belief, and enlightenment.

I didn’t plan to watch this film because this film came out in 1981 which is way before I was born. I worried that I might fall asleep while watching this film. However, I take back for what I thought and felt. It was a great film because of the storyline itself.

The religious belief and enlightenment in Buddha gave me an understanding about what Buddhism actually is. I was angry towards Ji San for what he did because a genuine monk like Po Bun shouldn’t have done that. But, you can see the difference between Po Bun and Ji San who strives to believe what is the right way to reach to enlightenment. Besides that, other monks show how they go through their daily lives in temples. So, I learn about the Buddhist religion in Korea but is it similar to other Asian countries like China and Thailand? If I was a researcher in religions, I would look into that.

Other than Buddhism, the friendship and/or brothers between Po Bun and Ji San is reflected in this film. They share their thoughts about what it means to get enlightenment and how they should be happy even though they’re not supposed to drink, sleep with women, and eat meat. I find that the bond between those two monks is strong even though they’re different. It’s sad that Ji San is gone but Po Bun respectfully sends him away in the traditional Buddhism culture which I find it touching.

Also, there are back stories from the two monks of how their lives as monks were like. The flow between present and their stories is not really complicated. Both of them are trying to find their answers and happiness. It’s either a good one or a bad one. For example, Ji San has an affair with the woman even though he’s not supposed to do that because he wants happiness instead of following the right way of attaining enlightenment. On the other hand, Po Bun has questions about agony so he decided to become a monk. Their back stories are revealed but we are brought back to the present where two monks are together as friends and/or brothers.

This film gives you the understanding of Buddhism culture (well obviously not drinking and having fun with women). It reflects the brotherhood between Po Bun and Ji San. You can see the difference between the two of them. Also, you get to see why they decided to become monks and how they want to attain happiness and enlightenment. For me, I didn’t regret to watch a 1980s film, which I thought I would fall asleep. But, I survived watching this whole film because of getting to know the Buddhism culture and the storyline about the two monks who have their own individual characteristics.

Rating: 7/10

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