The Scent of Green Papaya (1993)
Trần Anh Hùng
104 minutes, Vietnam & France
As part of our Same Same but Different programme, you can also watch The Third Wife (2018) in Drijvend Paviljoen for the Made in Vietnam special.
Made in Vietnam
Watching The Third Wife, a parade of classic cinema came across our minds. Raise the Red Lantern (1991) by Ang Lee, the cinematic aesthetics of Wong Kar Wai and of course, Vietnam’s pride director Tran Anh Hung whose film The Scent of Green Papaya (1993) mostly we were reminded of. Both films share a poetic delicacy we rarely see in cinema. Also, Trân Nu Yên-Khê, the beautiful Vietnam-born French actress and wife of Trần Anh Hùng, stars in all of his works as well as in The Third Wife (2018).
Set in the late 40s and early 60s, Mui (Man San Lu and Trân Nu Yên-Khê), a young, orphaned teenager from the countryside is taken as a servant into the household of a rich merchant family. She is a good natured girl who takes her tasks seriously and works so efficiently and unobtrusively that she almost seems like a spirit. Her naivety and goodness impress her cynical employers but also make her an easy target of the bullying of their spoiled two sons.
We watch the world through the eyes of Mui, eyes that study the world with detail and care. It is through Mui that we learn the father drinks and is unfaithful, while the mother is running the household and business. We see the mother growing fond of her as if she were her own daughter. Until the father dies, the business stagnates and Mui is sent to work as a servant for a young man who is a friend of the family.
The delicate story of Mui and the astonishing cinematography of Benoît Delhomme earned The Scent of Green Papaya the Award of Youth and a Golden Camera Award in Cannes Film Festival. The film holds a 100% rate on Rotten Tomatoes, where it is praised for its simpleness and beauty.