One of the best ways to learn about a country’s culture is to watch their films. Below are 5 best Vietnamese movies that would show the normal life of Vietnamese people in different eras.
Read also: What to know about Vietnamese culture
Mui Du Du Xanh (The Scent of Green Papaya)
Director: Tran Anh Hung
Release year: 1993 (released in the US, not in Vietnam)
Box office (USA): US$ 1.9m
Awards: Cannes Film Festival 1993 – Youth French Film and Golden Camera (winner), Oscar 1994 – Best Foreign Language Film (nominee)
The Scent of Green Papaya is likened to a poem in the form of moving pictures; it has an aesthetic vibe that is hardly found even in the international film industry. It is about Mui, a 10-year-old girl who worked as a servant for a family in Saigon, the former name of Ho Chi Minh City, in the 1950s. The characters in this movie did not have many lines, so the story about their peaceful lives and the love they gave to each other was told mostly through their actions and eyes.
Mui Du Du Xanh depicted the life of Mui when she was 10 and 20 years old
Canh Dong Bat Tan (The Floating Lives)
Director: Nguyen Phan Quang Binh
Release year (Vietnam): 2010
Awards: Vietnam Golden Kite 2010* Best Picture Voted by Press and Critics, 2010 Vietnam Silver Kite (second-best picture)
*Vietnam Golden Kite is the most acclaimed and respected movie awards in Vietnam.
The Vietnamese name of this film literally means “The Endless Fields”. Adapted from a famous award-winning Vietnamese novel of the same name about a duck-raising family and a prostitute whose life paths accidentally traverse each other. Successive tragedies and sufferings of every character take place incessantly, making it a poignant and thought-provoking movie.
Lives of characters in Canh Dong Bat Tan were full of tragedies which were endless just like the fields they went by
Bi, Dung So (Don’t Be Afraid, Bi)
Director: Phan Dang Di
Release year (Vietnam): 2010
Awards in international film festivals of Busan, Cannes, Vancouver, Hong Kong, Stockholm
“Bi, Dung So” is the story about a mid-class family in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. Each member of this family seemed to have their own emotions, aspirations, and memories that they want to keep as their own secrets. They were all busy with their own thoughts and did not pay much attention to their beloved ones, except for Bi. This 6-year-old boy unintentionally connected everyone in his family. Being full of artistic details and considered as one of the best Vietnamese movies, however, Bi, Dung So is not an easy-to-understand movie for the majority of the audience.
Ice blocks (the thematic metaphor of the film) appeared in many scenes of Bi, Dung So
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Ao Lua Ha Dong (The White Silk Dress)
Director: Luu Huynh
Release year: 2006
Awards: Vietnam Golden Kite 2006 – Best Picture
“Ao Lua Ha Dong” presents Vietnam during the war. The story is the life which was full of hardships of Dan and Gu. Together, they ran away from the families where they were servants, to get married to each other and then had 4 beautiful daughters. The most precious asset of their house was the wedding Ao dai that Gu gave to Dan in their wedding. Life was not easy when they had to face natural disasters and war. Emotional and tragic are what most audiences would say about this movie.
Ao Lua Ha Dong
Nguoi Vo Ba (The Third Wife)
Director: Nguyen Phuong Anh (Ash Mayfair)
Release year: 2018
Awards: Toronto Film Festival 2018 – Best Asia Film
With the help of Director Tran Anh Hung – the director of Mui Du Du Xanh – as an adviser, Nguoi Vo Ba is expected to make its way to the list of best Vietnamese movies. The film is a story about a 14-year-old girl who became a concubine of a wealthy man in the 19th century. She was the third wife in the family, and she then knew that to gain recognition and respect in that house, she had to give birth to a son. The movie is not only about the strict manners that are considered unreasonable nowadays but was common in the old Vietnam society, it is also about the untold thoughts of the women in that society.
Nguoi Vo Ba reveals many problems in the old society
Summary of Best Vietnamese Movies
If you are into a plot of twists and turns, check out Canh Dong Bat Tan, Ao Lua Ha Dong, and Nguoi Vo Ba. And if you are looking for a movie that carries many meanings and require some reflections after watching rather than thrilling scenes, Mui Du Du Xanh and Bi, Dung So would be good choices.