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Nostalgia for the Countryside (1995)

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Nostalgia for the Countryside
Directed byĐặng Nhật Minh
Written byĐặng Nhật Minh, Nguyễn Huy Thiệp
StarringThúy Hương

Lê Vân

Tạ Ngọc Bảo
Music byLuong Hoang
CinematographyNguyễn Hữu Tuấn
Edited byHoa Anh Tran
Production
company
HODA Film, NHK
Release date
1995
Running time
116 minutes
CountryVietnam, Japan
LanguageVietnamese

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Nostalgia for the countryside (Vietnamese: Thương nhớ đồng quê) is a film adapted from a famous novel with the same name written by Nguyễn Huy Thiệp[1]. Set in a small village in North Vietnam, it is a tale of awakening and growing into adulthood of the 17 year old protagonist Nhâm.

An ode to the Vietnamese countryside, its people and its culture and traditions, the film depicts the rural lifestyle and landscape of Vietnam in the 1980s.[2] Under the surface of the beautiful and peaceful looking countryside, Nostalgia unveils to us the poignant stories and serious conflicts of each character as they are caught in personal struggles in a modernising post-war Vietnam.

Plot[edit]

In the beginning of the film, Nhâm introduces himself to us and introduces us to his village.

He is a 17-year-old boy, an amateur poet who dropped out of school due to his family’s financial condition. He stays at home, helping her mother and Ngừ, her sister-in-law, with work in the paddy field.

Ngừ is upset as his husband(Nhâm’s brother) a worker in a far away mine in Cao Bang, is said to have fallen for another woman and has followed her across the border.

Working closely together in the paddy field, Nhâm and Ngừ develop an attraction to each other. When Quyên, a stylish beautiful girl returns from the city, curious about life in her childhood village, Nhâm falls in love with her to the jealousy of Ngừ. This love triangle grows between Nhâm, Ngừ and Quyên. However, all romances are forced to end as each of them go their separate ways. Quyên leaves to live permanently in the city. Nhâm is conscripted to serve in the army. Ngừ is left to work in the paddy fields and tend to her heartbroken mother in-law after Nhâm’s younger sister Minh’s fatal traffic accident.

In Nostalgia, it is where we find one of the rare filmic moments where the director Đặng Nhật Minh provides a direct critique of Vietnamese society. This occurs notably in the middle of the film during a conversation between Nhâm’s teacher and Quyên.

The progress of Vietnam is criticised to have left behind the peasants, as they have not benefitted from it. The village is still as it once was decades ago where buffalos help to plow the land and humans still have to do most of the labour work. Although many farm houses have access to electricity, it is so expensive that people cannot afford it. Farm produce is priced extremely low meaning that farmers earn very little. Forced to buy seeds and fertiliser at high prices, they are sometimes even cheated by city merchants.

Despite the fact that it was mainly peasants who went to the front and were sacrificed during the war, they still toil and struggle to survive now that the war is over.

The film places the responsibility and the fault on the Vietnamese living in cities.

“Our material greed is destroying the country. We exploit peasants irresponsibly. They bear the hardships so we can enjoy a good life. Only when we all accept responsibility for the peasants, and their lot is really improved can we speak of progress.“

The possibility to speak so frankly about the problems of society and the failure of the system for its people is most likely due to the funding coming from Japan and not from within Vietnam.

Production[edit]

This is a film sponsored by Japan's NHK Television and with that came more freedoms. It is Minh’s first film where he could have the right to decide on spending.

In the film, he makes use of largely non-actors, peasants whom he found in the village. The only well known professional actress was Lê Vân who played Quyên.[3]

In a post-screening interview[3] at the Cinematheque Suisse, Minh reveals his personal connection with the countryside. Despite being born in the city, he feels very much connected to the countryside. One instance that made a strong mark on him was during the Vietnam War bombings by America, when all the inhabitants of the city moved to live in the countryside with the peasants. He feels emotionally connected to the countryside and its people and is fond of them.

He also feels that the peasants are always the disadvantaged in society, compared to people in the city. He sympathises with them. Although he has always lived in the city, he feels that in his soul, he is always alongside the peasants.

Cast[edit]

  • Thúy Hương as Ngừ
  • Lê Vân as Quyên
  • Tạ Ngọc Bảo as Nhâm

Awards[edit]

The film won the A prize of the Vietnam Film Association in 1995 and the Kodak Award at the 1995 New Zealand Asia-Pacific International Film Festival.[4]

At the 1996 Vietnam Film Festival, the film won the Best Director Award.[4] It won the Audience Award and was nominated for the Golden Montgolfiere at the 1996 Nantes Three Continents Festival. It also won the ACCT Promotional Award at the 1996 Namur International Festival of French-Speaking Film. At the 1996 International Film Festival Rotterdam, it won the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema(NETPAC) Award, in a tie with Taiwanese film Heartbreak Island.[citation needed]

At the 1997 Fribourg International Film Festival, it received the Audience Award.[citation needed]

References[edit]

  1. VnExpress. "Nguyễn Huy Thiệp vào danh sách xét giải Nhà nước". vnexpress.net (in Tiếng Việt). Retrieved 2021-05-23.
  2. "Dang Nhat Minh | Mémoires d'Indochine" (in français). Retrieved 2021-05-23.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Vietnam-Suisse: Dang Nhat Minh présente "Nostalgie de la campagne" au Capitole, retrieved 2021-05-22
  4. 4.0 4.1 ONLINE, TUOI TRE (2018-03-15). "Đặng Nhật Minh và sự nghiệp điện ảnh chưa có người thay thế". TUOI TRE ONLINE (in Tiếng Việt). Retrieved 2021-05-22.


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