Sunday, February 16, 2014

Nuoc (2030) by Nguyen-Vo Nghiem-Minh, Vietnam: 2014-Panorama-Berlin Filmfestival 2014 X.

Just alone for the sake of the science fiction-genre, Nguyen´s film is very interesting. Made in a film country from where we had very few chances to see films on a festival – not to mention on the big screen. To make today a science fiction film is a tricky thing (which is one reason to admire Nguyen´s courage) There are a lot of traps. There is the "high art" of Tarkovsky´s Solaris and Kubrick´s 2001: A Space Odyssey and very often generated Blockbuster Science Fiction.

Nuoc takes place in the not too far away future. The warming of the earth´s climate caused catastrophic floods. Countries in Southern Asia like Vietnam are heavily affected. For the majority of the surviving population, life is only possible on boats or wooden houses built on on long stilts.
At the beginning we see a young woman in her long and slim boat. She arrives at the police station picking up the corpse of her husband. He is drowned they tell her, an explanation she doubts. The films jumps back in time several times, to times she spent with her husband and faraway back to the time she met him first time and how both of them fell in love. A few years before the apocalypse, the woman owned a fancy coffee shop. A few years later they have nearly everything lost. The land they still own is under water, the culture is almost limited in strategies to survive.
Beside the love story and the Science Fiction aspect, there is also a thriller element. The late husband of this woman invented a gen manipulated seed which can grow with sea water. Is he killed by the company which breeds on big swimming islands of steel the rare vegetable?
The interesting thing is the mixing of genres framed into a post apocalyptic science fiction frame. The flashbacks before the disaster are clashing against the present, a time of loss, the hope for a better future (in which the water goes back) clashes with the strong feeling that the disaster caused by the climate change is just at its beginning.
Well as Vietnam is a very young film country with a very limited production of feature films and very seldom screened on big festival, this was one of the first films on my screening schedule.
I am not yet sure if this combination with Hard Science fiction, love story and thriller works always. But in general and especially as an unconditional admirer of Dang Nhat Minh, my favorite Vietnamese director, I am very attracted especially by aspects we in the west would call “half-baked”. Nuoc for example has partly serious ambition last but not least about the threat of a climate disaster but in this film there is as well a delight for opulent genre cinema, revealed in often impressing Cinema scope images. That here like so often in nearly all Vietnamese films I have seen again a woman is the central character, is a very sympathetic convention of Vietnamese cinema. The heroine played by Quynh Hoa stays in my memory, because she is not only beautiful but more important- very convincing as a young woman who struggles for surviving but also has to deal with her big losses.

I am not sure but it can be possible that Nuoc is the the first Science Fiction film in Vietnamese film history. I often think that not only in the masterpieces by Dang Nhat Minh – that certain categories like genre films and art house cinema does not really exist in this national cinema. The relatively marginal existence of Vietnamese cinema, seldom invited to big festival is not really justified.
I saw Nuoc quite at the beginning of my festival covering and until just a few hours ago, I thought it was interesting but I let it go. Well, the film, some images, impressions came back. And strangely I feel the desire to watch it another time. For now I have to be lucky enough not to have overlooked this strange cinematic creature which does not really let me go yet.

Rüdiger Tomczak

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