Sunday, August 13, 2006

[ASEAN Film Festival] Jackfruit Thorn Kiss (1735KM) (Vietnam)

One of the beauties of movies is the ability for a viewer to catch glimpses and snapshots of a country one has yet to visit, especially if there are loads of outdoor on-location shoots. I haven't been to Vietnam, and Jackfruit Thorn Kiss provided me an opportunity to see what I probably could not, unless I visit the countryside.

Titled 1735KM, this is the distance between Hanoi and Saigon, the distance in which our protagonists, Kien (Ho Khanh Trinh) and Tram Anh (Duong Yan Ngoc), fall in love under. This movie essentially tells of a love story that could happen to almost anyone, highlighting the odds in real world population terms of meeting that one person out of six billion whom you are fated to meet and fall for.

I thought it started off in in similar terms like Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise, with the two would-be lovers meeting in a train carriage, albeit under unfriendly circumstances. Tram Anh, the opinionated woman, laments her bad luck about having broken her mobile phone and puts the blame on fellow passenger Kien, a happy go lucky artist. Ever accomodating with that smile on his face, it's a classic case of opposites attract, as they miss their train during a station stop, and have to rough it out together in the smaller towns of Vietnam, without much money and having to rely on ingenuity.

During their three days together, it's a case of Planes, Trains and Automobiles of sorts, as they journey from (touristy) location to location, town to town, either on foot, bicycle or a BMW motorcycle, and exchange banter and barbs on life in general, with opposite views presented from someone commitment-centric versus the carefree attitude. There are lots of philosophy of love discussed, and we see through these exchanges, how they slowly, subconsciously and inevitably, fall for each other.

Critical to the movie is how the main leads carry off their character's development, as they discover their individual changes. Duong Yan Ngoc and Ho Khanh Trinh exude chemistry and charm, and they are convincing as the lovebirds who undergo changes from within. It's almost always ironic that sometimes in a relationship, we are gravitating towards some form of change, for the better or for the worse, and these changes at times do conflict with what was attractive to the other person in the first place.

The movie's peppered with Vietnamese songs and while I don't understand the meaning of the lyrics due to the lack of subtitles here, it is by no means less enjoyable. There are also some touches of special effects like A Scanner Darkly, in almost animating everything on screen in a few scenes, and I thought they were beautifully done.

It's a bittersweet tale (though I disliked the very last scene as it was almost implausible) of love, and the changes that love will bring to the persons in a relationship. And I'm really glad to have watched Jackfruit Thorn Kiss (1735KM) during this film festival.

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