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But every second is a fresh wonder to savour and sense, but the wonders are everyday things and happenings.
I only found an explanation by reading another review, this is a film based on a Buddhist view of life, so we share with the servant Mui her living absolutely for the present moment, observing everything afresh, being enriched by her silent presence as the family are in the film. This is made possible by the combination of superb photography and minimal dialogue riveting our attention on Mui.
The Buddhist culture of the film explains why when Mui is grown up and working for a young musician he recognises Mui in a bust of Buddha.
Mui is played by two actresses, Man San Lu as a child of 10 and Tran Nu Yen-Khe age twenty, and fortunately both actresses are able to portray the extraordinary personality of Mui.
This master work is probably unique in the power of its simplicity.
Man San Lu portrays young Mui as she first comes to serve this family. She learns to cook and do her other tasks from an older servant who has been with this family for many years. You can almost smell the dishes as Mui learns the craft, the film itself a delicious study in our senses. Young and pretty Mui finds beauty in the world around her and Tran's camera captures both her delight and the joy of nature itself. Mui watches milky nectar drip onto leaves of small trees and we see through her eyes what we sometimes take for granted.
This beautiful photography is used to capture more than just nature though. Mui's Mistress (Thi Loc Troung) has lost a daughter in the past who would now be Mui's age. When her husband runs away from his family and takes the money she has saved from her small business in Saigon selling fabric, more of the past is revealed. This is not the first time this has happened and he has run off with the money and a woman. It is heartbreaking when we overhear her mother blaming her for what he has done.
Mui has come to care for the Mistress and she has begun to look upon her as the daughter she lost, hoping her oldest son will grow up and take her for his wife. But it is not to be as times become even harder and the Mistress has to release Mui in a scene filled with kindness and sadness.