Over the last few years, the Vietnamese film industry has developed very rapidly with not only concrete storyline, but also visual aesthetics. Despite the fact that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” the following list comprises top 4 Vietnamese movies that promise a feast for senses for any taste of cinephiles. I chose these films mostly for the reason that they can portray clearly the different mosaics of the Vietnamese culture in a way that leaves a profound imprints on international audiences. I believe that from these movies, Vietnam today will capture the hearts and minds of cinema-goers around the globe as a country with an optimistic outlook instead of the poignant past during the “Vietnam War” which was usually depicted in previous films. Let’s find out!
1. Yellow Flowers On Green Grass (2015)
– Vietnamese Title: Tôi Thấy Hoa Vàng Trên Cỏ Xanh (Toi Thay Hoa Vang Tren Co Xanh)
Adapted from the same award winning and best-selling novel by popular author Nguyen Nhat Anh, “Yellow Flowers on Green Grass” deserves to be the pioneer on this list for its phenomenal success in magnificent and poetic scenes through breathtaking camerawork. Just from the trailer, the audience has the chance to enjoy the pristine yet spectacular beauty of Phu Yen, a coastal province in Vietnam.
Set in the mid-1980s in a poor rural countryside village of central Vietnam, the film delivers a simple, heartfelt coming-of-age tale about two young brothers who share everything, but also compete with each other while vying for the attention and affection of a young girl who lives nearby. Through the eyes of children, the movie offers a rare look at life in the Vietnamese countryside that brings back a lot of childhood memories. The nostalgic atmosphere from the movie strikes the right chords with its target audience, Vietnamese cinema-goers who crave for the beautiful landscapes of Vietnam to be on screen and the chance to be moved emotionally by their favorite novel again.
Together with gorgeous flycam and slow motion capturing the majestic images of rural Vietnam, the highly melodic music and lovely lyrics exploited from traditional materials such as folk songs also support the plot in delivering the pastoral beauty to the viewers.
Beside its remarkable commercial success in Vietnam’s box office, the film won in the Best Feature Film category of the Young People’s Jury Award – part of the annual TIFF Kids International Film Festival in Toronto. Vietnam also selected ‘Yellow Flowers’ to represent the country’s cinema in vying for the Best Foreign Film prize at the Oscars 2017 – 89th Academy Awards. Since then, the stunning picturesque Phu Yen shown in the film has also become a new attractive destination for holidaymakers with its indigenous culture, scenic landscapes and local cuisine.
2. Summer In Closed Eyes (2018)
– Vietnamese Title: Nhắm Mắt Thấy Mùa Hè (Nham Mat Thay Mua He)
From personal opinion, I would give this movie 10-out-of-10 score for its amazing artistic visual and adorable soundtracks. These two elements alone have made the film beautiful in every single frame.
“Summer in closed eyes” is a touching story about the girl named Ha (Summer) who embarked on the journey to Japan to the town of Higashikawa, Hokkaido, Japan to find her father. In Japan, she was accompanied by Akira, a local photographer who was also a friend of her farther. Throughout the journey, they explore together various majestic places based on film photos taken by her farther, overcome language and culture barriers, fall in love with each other and then discover her father’s hidden secret.
The snow-capped region of Higashikawa in summer was captured through film-photography style with its natural and pure beauty in every inch. Cultural festivals with traditional yukatas from Japan were sophisticatedly showed through the film. The cinematography of the film comes from the visually beautiful framing and coloring of the whole movie.
Though its romantic plot and slow pace may leave an unsatisfactory feeling to some of us, the storyline based on the creative idea of writing a quote on behind each picture beginning with “If one day…, I will” will surely give the audience a deep impression of what message is trying to deliver. The majority of cinema-goers cried while watching it. It is not just about romance, family, friendship but it is more about living your life to the fullest.
This message is emphasized even more clearly if you listen to its behind-the-scene story. A “charity project” – that is what the film crew called themselves as they had faced tons of challenges in finding the fund to produce the movie. Most of them are young Vietnamese aspire to create a product which they can be proud when they look back on their youth’s prime time. The movie is an independent film which took the whole Vietnamese and Japanese team nearly two years to finish. There were times that giving up seems to be the only choice, but they made it.
“As the first time filmmakers, we faced tons of challenges. There are times we must hold the project. However, with yearnest passion of the youth, we have tried to make the movie come true.” – from the film crew.
If you want to fall in love with the rustic beauty of Hokkaido in summer through the lens of film photography, this movie will take you by surprise with its splendid visual together with sweet melodic soundtracks!
3. The Girl From Yesterday (2017)
– Vietnamese Title: Cô Gái Đến Từ Hôm Qua (Co Gai Den Tu Hom Qua)
This is another screen adaptation from the novel under the same name by Nguyen Nhat Anh, the Vietnamese best-selling author who is well-known for the aforementioned “Yellow Flowers On Green Grass.” The book was published in 1990 and has sold more than 200,000 copies.
Apart from the brotherhood of “Yellow Flowers On Green Grass,” “The Girl From Yesterday” is about a high school innocent love story set in the 1980s to 1990s. Thu, a teenage boy who is a troublemaker at school, suddenly falls in love at first sight when he met the new transfer student named Viet An. He starts carrying out tons of plans to win her heart. However, the more he becomes closer to her, the more he remembers about his first love, Tieu Li.
Around the main couple, there are other tales of high school crushes and childhood memories of adolescents with strong compassion and enthusiasm. And for my generation, the movie is exactly a ticket way back to our student life in the analog era when the digital had not dominated like today. It will bring back memories with peers and even the very first time our heart skips a beat for someone at high school.
After its release in 2017, this jointly produced film by South Korea and Vietnam took the Vietnamese market by storm and became a hit box office in Vietnam. Using high-tech equipment, the film crew spent more than a year shooting the film with sophisticated camera angles to capture the pastoral beauty of Vietnam. and smooth transitions. It would be a miss not to mention the clever and creative visual storytelling in the movie which helps to create emotions and makes the audience goes “WOW”!
From the puppy love, petty fights with friends and first crush, “The Girl from Yesterday” has it all to bring nostalgia to the cinephiles through great cinematography, art-direction and over-all use of colors and camera composition.
Its theme song also brings a sheer impression of an upbeat vibe and fun for the hit rom-com movie.
4. The Tailor (2017)
– Vietnamese Title: Cô Ba Sài Gòn (Co Ba Sai Gon)
Unlike above-mentioned movies, this one will bring a feast for your eyes mainly for its incredibly stylish fashion and vibrant culture of Old Saigon aesthetics. Considered as the Vietnamese version of the mixture between a reverse “13 Going On 30″ and “The Devil Wears Prada,” “The Thailor” has succeeded in honoring Vietnam’s national costume “Ao Dai” (long dress) through an elegantly and gracefully retro style to the world with flying colors. It not only won the “Best Feature Film” at the Vietnamese Golden Kite Awards but also was chosen to be screened at Busan International Film Festival 2017 (BIFF).
Set in Sai Gon (former name of HCM City, Vietnam) in the 1960s, the heyday of traditional Vietnamese costumes, the film’s story follows a top-notch “Ao Dai” tailor Thanh Mai, the owner of a prestigious boutique tailor shop called Thanh Nu, and her arrogant daughter, Nhu Y. While Thanh Mai tries to convince her daughter to to take up the family business in making traditional “Ao Dai” – a craft they have practiced for nine generations, Nhu Y, who is also a designer, considers traditional dress old-fashioned and is interested only in Western-style outfits. One day, she accidentally shifts in time to the future and finds herself become an old, fat and alcoholic failure. Then, she undergoes a transformation from opening her eyes to traditional dress to rebuilding the ruined family business.
Watching the film, you will be amazed by the beauty of Vietnamese national costumes and the effort of the film crew in lionizing “Ao Dai,” as well as the importance of respecting traditional culture. Besides, it also encapsulates a positive feminist tone with the cast of leading actresses in Vietnam and a juxtaposition of the Old Saigon, gentle and steeped in nostalgia, with the rush of a dynamic modern city.
Indeed, the film is one of the few movies from the modern Vietnamese filmmakers that can revive the history of Vietnamese traditional culture, and, impressively, create a perfect stage to shine a limelight on such national symbolic feature.
More details about the film-making process and the messages of the movie fro Vietnamese Fashion can be found at the film crew’s interview with Hallyu World:
By Nguyen Thu Thao, ASEAN Correspondent from Vietnam