I watched A24’s new film “Past Lives” at Angelika.
The keyword that permeates this movie is In-Yeon (“karma” or “fate”).
How does director Celine Song use the concept of In-Yeon in this film?
In Buddhism, “In” refers to the direct force that creates results, while “Yeon” refers to the external and indirect forces that assist it.
The movie’s protagonist, Nora, leaves her homeland Korea as a child immigrant. Before leaving, Haesung was her closest friend, and their relationship is a direct result of In.
Years later, they reconnect through internet technologies like Facebook and Skype. The internet serves as a Yeon for their reunion.
I empathize with Nora as an immigrant myself. Like Nora, I have traveled to numerous countries and met various people. Time has passed like a thief, and it has been over a decade since I last met some close friends. However, we are still indirectly connected through Yeon like Instagram, and I recently confirmed that connection.
Let me share my experience. On Instagram, I saw the story of an old friend I met in Canada during middle school, and he is now living in New York. I became curious. What kind of person has he become? What voice does he have, and what kind of life has he lived? After briefly contemplating, I cautiously sent him a direct message (DM), and we made plans to meet.
That weekend, we met again at a café in East Village. Seeing each other as adults, having only memories of each other as children… It was a complex, diverse, and brilliantly bright mix of emotions. We were swept away by the intensity of fate that reconnected two friends. We admired and were curious about each other. We enjoyed the gift that In-Yeon brought us through our reunion.
Didn’t Nora and Haesung also share a similar experience? In the vast span of time between the beginning and end of the universe, meeting someone at the same time and place is truly remarkable… It’s In-Yeon. There’s no other word to describe it. Even the slightest brush of our sleeves can be an expression of In-Yeon, and perhaps that’s painfully obvious. So, what does the teaching of the Buddha say to us living in the information age? After watching this movie, we realize that we are living in the era of Yeon.
“All things arise from In and Yeon, and when In and Yeon disperse, they disappear.” – Shakyamuni Buddha
Facebook, Instagram, Skype, FaceTime, KakaoTalk…
If there is a small thread of In between you and me, these vast tools of Yeon bring us back together. They make us meet again. I even talked with my best friend in Korea today via FaceTime. If we don’t want to sever the connection, we now live in the infinite ties of In-Yeon. This film captures the most beautiful moments in such a destiny. The intense and fiery moment of reuniting, as if the flames of In-Yeon have touched again. Isn’t this the ultimate experience we can feel in the world of In-Yeon?
In-Yeon is beautiful, and its value shines even brighter in a hyper-connected world. That is the message I read from “Past Lives.”