I honestly had no idea what to expect from Burning, up until the credits started to roll. Although there are moments that the movie seems to resemble others, or starts to conform to genre conventions, this may all be red herrings and MacGuffins to the overall film experience. And I truly believe that the experience director Chang-dong Lee intended audiences to have is one of questions, not answers. It is fitting that the inciting incident of the film’s narrative involves the house-sitting of a cat that never shows itself. Many who have debated the meaning of the movie have argued the possibility that the cat doesn’t exist at all. I believe that the point is that the cat both exists and doesn’t exist, because the film itself feels like a cinematic representation of Schrödinger’s cat.
There is a quote on the back of the Rampant Blu-ray comparing the film to “Game of Thrones meets 28 Days Later,” and while I know this was meant as a marketing selling point, it did more harm than good to have these preconceived notions in my head. For one thing, “Game of Thrones” already has zombies, so the addition of 28 Days Later to the comparison is redundant at best. Also, nearly every element that is can be compared to “Game of Thrones,” including swordplay, politics, and zombie-like attacks forcing the living to band together, has been done better by the HBO series. While the quote on the back of the Blu-ray may inspire additional rentals and purchases, it is also likely to lead to more disappointing viewing experiences.
There is no question that Mary Queen of Scots is a good movie, well made in every technical aspect. The 4K Ultra HD edition highlights this fact, particularly in terms of the design elements. It is a good looking film, with a timely story (to the point that it occasionally feel on-the-nose) acted out by a handful of capable actors (albeit, many of which are made unrecognizable underneath too much stagy make-up), and yet there are also enough annoyances (as pointed out in these interruptions to the sentence) to prevent me from fully appreciating the quality. Mary Queen of Scots also has the misfortune of inevitable comparisons to The Favorite, a film which satirizes the very ideas that this film treats with melodramatic seriousness.