“I Have a Date With Spring” is quite a peculiar film, particularly for its narrative that mixes drama, sci-fi, fantasy, horror and social drama within an apocalyptic setting, through which the director manages to communicate a number of messages regarding the human psyche.

I Have a Date With Spring” is part of the Asian selection at Fantasia International Film Festival

In rather unusual fashion, the film opens with a filmmaker sitting on a lake during his birthday, trying to complete a screenplay that has been standing for over a decade. Suddenly, he hears an explosion and four individuals appear from the woods behind the lake, with a middle-aged woman among them staying with him, stating she is his fan and wishing to hear about his new script. The story then moves to other characters, probably the heroes of his script, who also have their birthdays, but whose arcs include the other three individuals that appeared before. These include a schoolgirl who is acquainted with a man in his forties, a romantic poetry professor who suffers from depression who meets a beautiful, but very sick woman, and a housewife, who meets a woman her age, who seems to be a fan of a book about female fighting she wrote back at the day. All three characters take a trip with their newfound “friends” both actually and metaphorically. All the while, the world seems to be ending.

Baek Seung-bin directs a film that unfolds in peculiar, but intriguing fashion, through which he manages to present a number of comments about individuals who represent a specific caste of society, while the “aliens” represent each of these caste’s needs. The filmmaker wants someone to appreciate him (a fan if you wish), the schoolgirl someone to interact with her (a friend or a parent) since her parents seem to neglect her. The professor is searching for love, for a woman who can dedicate his poems to, and the housewife a female friend, someone who will make her feel appreciated, and give her life a purpose outside her taking care of her household. The aliens embody these needs to the fullest, offering satisfaction to the people they accompany initially, but Baek destroys this perspective completely, through the finale of each story, which is anything but a happy ending. This concept gives the film a nihilistic approach, but at the same time seems to suggest that the end of each person is not so significant if he has found what he wanted in his life, that even some moments of happiness can be more important than anything else.

At the same time, Baek seems to address the marginalized of society, since the main characters are social pariahs, thus presenting the main themes of the film, solitude and the melancholy deriving from it.

Despite the seriousness of these messages, his approach is more playful and terrifying than dramatic, since the film includes strange creatures, deaths, violence and much humor, mainly deriving from the schoolgirl arc, through the utter inappropriateness in the behaviour of the man she meets. Through this approach, Baek nullifies the borders of the art-house film, which forms the principal aesthetics of the film, and instead transcends into the genre movie, something that definitely benefits the entertainment the film offers. This tactic is implemented quite nicely by Kim Hyung-joo’s editing, who retains a relatively slow pace that picks up, though, during the climax of each arc.

Choo Kyeong-yeob’s cinematography is another of the highlights of the film, with him portraying the various settings (urban and rural) with artistry, through a number of images of utter beauty. The shooting of the few terrifying scenes are the apogee of a great effort. The general, eerie atmosphere that permeates the film benefits the most from his work.

The acting follows the general aesthetics of the film, with all the actors performing admirably their strange roles. The ones who stand out though, are Kim So-hee as the school girl and Kim Sung-kyun as her “partner,” whose performances are largely responsible for the entertainment their arc offers. Kim Hak-sun as the professor offers a radically opposite, but equally impressive, dramatic performance.

“I Have a Date With Spring” is strange but very interesting, and definitely very rewarding film, which manages to coat a rather dramatic concept with an optimistic tone, thus distinguishing itself from the plethora of films about the end of the world.