Background Information

Asian peninsula situated between India and China and encompassing the following countries: Burma (today Myanmar), Thailand, Western Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

French Colonization
The Southern part of the Indochinese peninsula, called Cochinchina, was conquered by the French in the middle of the 19th century and later integrated into the French colony of Viet Nam. In 1930 Ho Chi Minh founded the Indochinese Communist Party. In 1941 the National Liberation Front of Viet Nam (Viet Minh) was founded.

The movie
The movie takes place in the 1930s, a period when "the good life" in the colonies was beginning to be threatened by nationalistic revolts against colonial oppression and exploitation. Catherine Deneuve, one the most admired French actresses, plays the role of Eliane, the owner of a prosperous rubber plantation who has adopted Camille, a girl from Annan (Central Vietnam). Because of the political upheaval, Eliane is in danger of losing everything: her plantation, her life style, and her daughter. 

The film ends in 1954, in Geneva, Switzerland where the treaty to restore the independence of Vietnam was signed.

A Rubber Plantation
Rubber is a natural elastic and resistant material made from coagulated latex formed by (hevea) trees in tropical South America and the Far East. In 1890 rubber became a much needed commodity because of the growing demand for a new means of transportation, cars.

The Popular Front
Le Front populaire mentioned at the end of the movie is a political reaction both against the rising tide of fascism in Europe and against business practices viewed as exploitation of the workers. The Communist U.S.S.R. (Russia) forged alliances with the bourgeois classes of many countries. This lead to the creation of so-called "Popular Fronts" in many countries: France, Spain, Belgium, Greece, the United States, Chili, India, Indochina, China and the Philippines.

The First Indochina War (1946-1954)
The War of Liberation from colonial domination fought by the Viet Minh against the French lasted about eight years. In 1954 the Viet Minh won the Battle of Dien Bien Phu. France officially relinquished Viet Nam at a conference in Geneva. The country was divided into two separate states, the (Communist) North and the (Republican) South Vietnam.

The Viet Nam War (1954-1975)
Supported by China and the U.S.S.R. (Russia), North Vietnam invaded South Vietnam. To help South Vietnam stop the Communist advance, the United States entered the war in 1964. The U.S. troops were forced to retreat in 1975 and North Vietnam takes Saigon, the capital in the South. The two parts of Vietnam are reunited in 1976. Saigon becomes Ho Chi Minh City.


Website designed and maintained by Barbara Vigano, Prof. emeritus of French, Mt. San Antonio College