A Vietnamese servant girl, Mui, observes lives within two different Saigon families: the first, a woman textile seller with three boys and a frequently absent husband; the second, a handsome young pianist with his fiancée.


Anh Hung Tran (as Tran Anh Hung)


Anh Hung Tran (as Tran Anh Hung)
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 4 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »





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


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. Written by Zheng Wang <zhwang@das.harvard.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Music | Romance


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


This was the first Vietnamese film nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. It lost to Belle Epoque (1992) from Spain. It was also the first film to be submitted by Vietnam for the award and as of 2017, it is still the only Vietnamese movie ever to be nominated. See more »


There's no ring on Mui's finger towards the end of the movie even though they are married. See more »


Featured in Cold Showers (2005) See more »


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

User Reviews

pure expression of personal peace and the nature of film
20 April 2003 | by squarest4See all my reviews

One of the purest films ever made, this movie captures a sense of utter peace and spirituality, drawn from the main character's constant sense of wonder, awareness of her surroundings, and the pleasure she is able to take in simple daily tasks. It is also an expression of the true nature of the medium, since there is no forced tension or plot points, and the camera explores its world in perfect freedom, and with perfect curiosity (to suit the main character, who is filled with curiosity for the world around her, often taking time to simply stare at the objects around her, as an ideal camera should). Some say that the "problem" with this film is that it lacks tension, which to me seems to be an odd attitude--why should a movie "require" forced dilemmas in order to be considered good? (particularly when film is such a good medium for expressing both every-day reality AND for expressing states of mind--in this case, the filmaker wanted to express a sense of quietude, which is perfectly legitimate, very real, and is well suited to the medium). In fact, if this film has a tiny fault, it is in the few moments where there does exists some tension, which take away from the pure sense of personal peace and wholeness that the film so perfectly expresses. And it goes without saying that this is a perfectly constructed "poem" paying tribute a particular feeling and state of being (a state of being which is tied to the true nature of the camera medium), and that its plot is not the focus (nor should it be, in a film attempting to simply portray reality and express ideas/emotions in a way that is suited to the medium). Also needless to say, every shot is beautiful, carefully framed, and the flow of the movie (in editing, acting, and music) is natural, expressive, musical, and in a word, "perfect".

We should all seek to be more like this main character, and this camera, in our awareness of the world around us and our ability to find peace with the reality of everyday life. One of the greatest things film can do for us is to make us reconsider the basic nature of the reality that surrounds us, and allow us to consider different ways of viewing it, allow us appreciate its inherent texture. This film does this.

It is a shame that there are so few films made with this purity--that most films attempt to force meaningless tension and artificial dilemmas on us for no greater purpose than to distract our minds, and in the process they clash against the medium's natural tendencies and potentials. (note: I'm not claiming that tension is inherently bad, or that great films can't be made that way, but in most films the tension and dilemmas are forced, and in most films they goes against the camera's natural "state of being", and in many films this tension has no artistic purpose, even in films that are actually trying to say or express something).

Regarding this filmaker's other film, "The vertical ray of the sun": visually it is even more beautiful than this film, and in parts it expresses an even purer sense of peace... however, it does contain some overly strong moments of tension and dilemma that seem totally out of place within its calm style; also, although I have downplayed story and character in the above discussion, Green Papaya does have a well drawn and beautiful story that even has some mythic resonance (or more importantly, the main character has these things). "vertical ray" on the other hand, does not have such resonant characters or plot points, though admitedly it is more beautiful in some ways. However, i have seen each film only once, so I may change my mind about "vertical ray"--and regardless of any slight misgivings I have currently, I do recommend it as an important film experience.

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Vietnam | France



Release Date:

28 January 1994 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Scent of Green Papaya See more »

Filming Locations:

Paris, France See more »


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Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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