7.4/10
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The Scent of Green Papaya (1993)

Mùi du du xanh (original title)
A little girl, Mui, went to a house as a new servant. 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. 10 years... See full summary »

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 4 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Tran Nu Yên-Khê ...
Mui Age 20 (as Trân Nu Yên-Khê)
Man San Lu ...
Mui Age 10 #orphan # a little girl
Thi Loc Truong ...
La mère (as Truong Thi Lôc)
Anh Hoa Nguyen ...
La vieille Ti (as Nguyên 'Anh Hoa)
Hoa Hoi Vuong ...
Khuyen (as Vuong Hòa Hôi)
Ngoc Trung Tran ...
Le père
Vantha Talisman ...
Thu
Keo Souvannavong ...
Trung
Van Oanh Nguyen ...
Mr. Thuan
Gerard Neth ...
Tin
Nhat Do ...
Lam
Thi Hai Vo ...
La grand-mère
Thi Thanh Tra Nguyen ...
Mai
Lam Huy Bui ...
Le médecin
Xuan Thu Nguyen ...
L'antiquaire
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Storyline

A little girl, Mui, went to a house as a new servant. 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. 10 years later Mui (now a young woman) was sent to another family, a young pianist and his fiancee. The musician fell in love with the peasant, he taught her literacy and they eventually married. A movie about a girl's life. Written by Zheng Wang <zhwang@das.harvard.edu>

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Genres:

Drama | Music | Romance

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Details

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Release Date:

28 January 1994 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Scent of Green Papaya  »

Filming Locations:

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Box Office

Gross:

$1,910,763 (USA)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The director Tran Anh Hung is married to Tran Nu Yên-Khê, the actress who plays Mui Age 20. See more »

Connections

Referenced in (500) Days of Summer (2009) See more »

Soundtracks

Prélude no 24
Music by Frédéric Chopin (as Chopin)
Performed by Geneviève Ibanez
See more »

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Cultural Aspects
31 January 2008 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

The community in this film, for the most part, is civil and respectful. It is a calm and quiet environment where the servants are treated with just as much esteem as are the landowners and their children. It is not a place of dread (as might be expected concerning the lives of servants), but is a place of learning and growth. Despite the occasional feuds between Mui and the master's younger son, the director establishes a tranquil atmosphere through the use of jungle ambiance, soothing riffs from citars and flutes, mis-en-scene, and transcendence from the ordinary things of life.

The predominant community established and focused on is of servant-hood. The tutorials between the young apprentice, Mui, and her elderly instructor, To, give the viewer insights to their daily chores and lifestyle. The life of a servant consists of cooking, preparation, cleaning, passion, and appreciation for the ordinary. In particular, a great emphasis is honed in on the importance of cleanliness and preparation. Multiple scenes reveal the delicate care the servants take in preparing the food they create for their masters. Cleanliness always precedes these acts of creation. Beautiful close-ups and slow motioned effects show Mui washing her hands and face in a rather spiritually ritualistic way. The director establishes their works more like an art than like a service. However, the life of a servant, by definition, is still one of entrapment.

The camera itself acts like a trapped servant for the majority of the film. It always seems to be peering upon the characters through obstructed walls, screens, doors, and windows, yet never reveals them entirely. It's as if the camera is trying to break free from the clutter that fills the screen by constantly moving proportionately to the way the characters move. The screen is always filled in various layers—the foreground will usually be filled with a variety of set décor; the middle ground is the characters space; and the background is for extras and the mood of the atmosphere. The community presented is also one that has a deep appreciation for the ordinary things in life.

Immaculate close-ups of bugs, frogs, lizards and plants all help illustrate the love the people, and more particularly, the director, have for the beauties in nature. An interesting use of mis-en-scene is paralleled between Mui and the insects she feeds inside the cage. Mui, an entrapped servant inside her own cage called "home", feeds a cluster of crickets entrapped inside their cage in order to sustain their lives. It is a reflection of her own nourishing she receives from the masters inside the cage she lives in. It is her way of giving back to nature what nature has given to her. A tender scene is shown between the friendship of Mui and her crickets when she is told she will be leaving to serve in another home. As she opens the door to the cage to let the crickets go free, they cling to its surface—unwilling to move. That the crickets are scared to break free and venture outside beyond the confines of their cage is a reflection of Mui's life to venture beyond the home (cage) she was essentially raised in. The community, then, is shown as being one that represents the effects of being institutionalized over a given period of time. The characters in the story, whether human or insect, are ones that adapt to their environment quickly and make the best of their given situation. Uncomfortable feelings are the natural result of those who are told to divorce themselves from the norm. In short, the community presented is the metaphysical expression of the human development from being to change to becoming.


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