Why are they great? Why do they stand with the test of time whereas others are gradually faded? Let’s figure out the answer in the below article.
Nowadays, the majority of Vietnam film makers are lured by commercial film trend. Asian film industry, including Korean, Chinese or Japanese also become fast growing and increasingly competitive in the movie market, which causes lots of challenges and requires huge efforts from Vietnamese film creators.
It may appear to be an impossible task to figure out which movie are the greatest among such a vast “movie pool.” However, with the special emotion that the story invokes, unforgettable performances of cast, their cinematic greatness from a directing/writing perspective along with their achievements (awards and nominations), there are undeniably certain films that audiences connect with more than others.
Hence, I would like to suggest this list which contains film released in every decade since the 1979. Let’s see how well the Vietnamese industry goes and capture audience’s attention when the strong penetration of Hallyu or Chinese already brings significant influences on the new generation.
1. Canh Dong Hoang / The Abandoned Field: Free Fire Zone (1979)
Director: Nguyễn Hồng Sến
Cast: Lâm Tới, Thúy An
Awards: Golden Prize and the Prix FIPRESCI at the 12th Moscow International Film Festival
This film is relatively familiar to Vietnamese movie-lovers over the past decades. It is taken place within the perimeter of an empty field. The setting is the area of Dong Thap Muoi during the days of the Vietnam war. Ba Do, his wife and small child live in a small shack in the middle of the water. They are entrusted by the revolution with the mission of maintaining the lines of communication for the armed forces. The author focused much of the plot’s development upon the daily life of the husband and wife, like planting rice, caring for their child, catching snakes, and catching fish, but interwoven with this are American military helicopters raiding the watery field to uncover the guerilla soldiers operating there. When Ba Do is shot by an American helicopter, his wife shoots the helicopter down to avenge him.
At the end of the film there is a scene where a photograph of the shot pilot’s wife and child falls from his chest. There were many proposes to modify this ending, however, it was still kept in order for people to see and understand further about American soldiers. Because of the American war, they had to be pulled from their families and put into Vietnam to fight as the victim.
2. Mua Du Du Xanh / The Scent of Green Papaya (1993)
Director: Trần Anh Hùng
Cast: Trần Nữ Yên Khê, Lư Mẫn San, Trương Thị Lộc
Awards: Oscar, Cannes, Cannes nomination
The Scent of Green Papaya (Mùi đu đủ xanh) is a 1993 Vietnamese-language film produced in France directed by Vietnamese-French director Tran Anh Hung, and starring Tran Nu Yên-Khê, Man San Lu, and Thi Loc Truong
The movie is about an orphan girl – Mùi, becomes a servant for a rich family initially. The mother still mourns the mother still mourns the death of her daughter, who would have been Mui’s age. In her mind she treated Mui as her daughter.
Mùi is a quick learner and curious girl. The whole movie is observed stunning through her eyes. For her, there is beauty in every detail: A drop of water trembling on a leaf, a line of busy ants, a self-important frog in a puddle left by the rain, the sunlight through the green leaves outside the window, the scent of green papaya.
Ten years later, the family falls on hard times, Mùi changes homes. She becomes a servant for a pianist who was a friend of the older son when they were younger. That man is engaged to be married, but he prefers playing the piano to spending time with his fiance. One night, as the fiance chatters on, his piano playing becomes increasingly stormy as he ignores her. She moved behind and watch through the window. However, when Mùi comes into the room, his music becomes more harmonious. Later that night, the pianist goes to Mùi’s quarters after dark and closes the door behind him. When the fiance realized that, the engagement is broken. Since then, the pianist starts teaching Mùi her literacy and afterwards, they get married. The last scene is beautiful when a pregnant Mùi reads poetry to her husband, her unborn child, and the wife of her original household.
The movie appears to be attractive because of its mystery shown on the poster. As the film begins, it seems to be a traditional Vietnamese narrative set but as the flow goes on, audience will be driven into another direction. In the entire movie, there are no climaxes, no over emotional scenes, and no suspenseful twist and turns. However, there still exists an invisible fascination from the movie, which makes audiences not to be able to take their eyes off. The Scent of Green Papaya is free form in its aesthetic, roaming from character to character and discovering the beauty of the landscape.
3. Bao Gio Cho Den Thang Muoi/ When the Tenth Month Comes (1984)
Director: Đặng Nhật Minh
Cast: Lê Vân, Nguyễn Hữu Mười, Đặng Lưu Việt Bảo
Awards: Asia-Pacific Film Festival, Vietnam Film Festival
“When the 10th Month Comes” is one of the most outstanding movies throughout Dang Nhat Minh – Director’s career. It ranked 18th in the “Best Asian Films of All Time” list conducted by CNN. The movie depicts the story of wartime love and devotion of the woman named Duyen (Nguyen Huu Muoi), who attempts to hide her husband’s death news from her father in law.
When she goes to visit her husband who was sent to fight along the Cambodian border and discovers that he has been killed in action, Duyen cannot unveil the tragic news to his parents and family because his father is both very old and weak. Soon her grief is too great, and she confides her secret to a friend, Khang, and asks him to fake letters from her dead husband to keep the myth going. As she struggles with her own despair, her husband appears to her as a ghostly apparition and in a gentle, understated way, motivates her to keep her chin up and continue to live. But her deception cannot last forever, time after time, Khang has fallen in love with her.
4. Chuyen Cua Pao/ Story of Pao (2006)
Director: Ngo Quang Hai
Cast: Do Thi Hai Yen, Nhu Quynh, Do Thuy Hoa, Ly Thanh Kha
Awards: Cinematography Association’s 2005 Golden Kite Award, Asia-Pacific Film Festival (4 awards), Cinemanila International Film Festival, Montreal World Film Festival
This movie is likely not in line with lots of entertainment-oriented films made by private company. Getting inspired by a simple but emotional story called “Jew’s harp sound behind a rocky fence,” Ngo Quang Hai – Director of the movie, harbors the dream of adapting this project for the screen. Then, in 2016, “Pao’s story” was officially on air, which literally satisfied the hunger for movie of many cinema-holics.
Pao’s story describes the lives of remote ethnic Mong villagers and a young girl named Pao, starring by actress Hai Yen – who was featured in the international hit The Quiet American, directed by Australian Philip Noyce.
She was raised by her stepmother since her real mother abandoned her when she was small. One day, her stepmother dies in an accident so she starts her journey to track down her birth mother. Then it turns out to disclose an unsealed sentimental drama of the family in the past.
“Pao’s story” not only portrays the rural milieu preserved in his country through images which would not demonstrated on a tourist brochure, but also reflects the tight links between this nature and Pao’s identity quest. More than Pao’s story, it is in fact the story as told by Pao.
Written by Huyen Pham, ASEAN Correspondent from Vietnam