French director Régis Wargnier’s historic epic, Indochine, is a cinematic masterpiece with a gripping storyline that is comparable to those of the great classics of both film and literature.
In 1930s French colonial Indochina, Éliane, a wealthy, unmarried Frenchwoman, owns and runs a rubber plantation. She raises her adopted daughter, an orphaned Vietnamese princess as if she were her own daughter and gives her all of the privileges of a European child. When Éliane meets Jean-Baptiste, a young French army officer, they begin a torrid affair, but when Camille encounters him, she, too, is put under his spell. With the communist revolution in its early days, the conflict between them puts Camille’s life at risk.
With a running time of more than two and a half hours, this film has unnecessarily drawn out scenes but is mesmerising nevertheless. Catherine Deneuve gives a compelling and passionate performance in one of the greatest roles of her career. Opposite her is Lin Dan Pham who, in her acting debut, gives an emotive and heart-wrenching performance as Camille and holds her own even when opposite the film veteran Deneuve. Vincent Pérez is charming and intense as Jean-Baptiste and his chemistry with both of his leading ladies is spellbinding. With a superb score by the ever-talented Patrick Doyle, together with the astonishing cinematography it is a feast for the eyes. The script and storyline are flawed in that not all expectations during viewing are met, but it is written with such intelligence and thoughtfulness that the flaws can be easily overlooked.
Although often compared to the American classic, Gone with the Wind, it is more so a tale of the changes people go through due to a political change than a sensational love affair but it is this that makes the film so unusual and fiery.