Few films illustrate the cyclical nature of life as literally—or as powerfully—as Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring. Set in and around a small, ascetic Buddhist temple in the middle of an isolated lake, writer-director Kim Ki-duk’s latest feature traces the development of an apprentice at the hands of his venerable Buddhist master (Oh Young-soo). In “Spring,” the first of the film’s five titular vignettes, the intrepid and curious 7-or-so-year-old protégé (Kim Jong-ho) treks into the nearby woods, discovers a fish, and decides to keep it by weighing it down with a rock tied to a string. Later, he does the same to a frog and snake. Of course, the boy’s mentor spies all of this, and that night he ties a large, flat stone to the sleeping novice’s back; the next morning, the master instructs him to wear the rock until he unties the animals. “You will carry this stone in your heart for the rest of your life,” he promises. But Spring is hardly a New Age fable—and it has more in common with Kim’s fierce 2000 film, The Isle, than is at first apparent. The following four episodes, set between 10 to 35 years later, track the younger monk (played successively by Seo Jae-kyung, Kim Young-min, and the director himself) as he falls in love, leaves the temple as his mentor warns him that “Lust awakens the desire to possess, which ends in the intent to murder,” and, more than once, returns. Kim’s script smoothly handles these leaps in time, allowing his deliberately paced film’s concerns—innocence and experience, death and renewal, the Buddhist conception of natural order—to resonate throughout. Equally impressive is the skill with which cinematographer Baek Dong-hyun filmed the beautiful South Korean forest in which Spring is set. Though this is a movie about transience, it will stay with you for a long time to come. —Matthew Summers-Sparks