A Hundred Years of Happiness
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… observes but never intrudes on the journey of Tram and her family, capturing intricate details of rural life accompanied by beautiful music played mostly on traditional instruments.
21-year-old Tram wanted to immigrate to Australia to earn enough money for herself and her family to live more comfortably in Vietnam, but when her chances are stymied, she pursues a new life in South Korea as a migrant bride.
The title of award-winning Australian filmmaker [Blush of Fruit, Dan Bau Lullaby] Jakeb Anhvu’s A Hundred Years of Happiness refers to a traditional expression of support for the bride and groom at Vietnamese weddings. It follows Tram and her family as they live, work, and prepare for Tram’s upcoming nuptials to Soo, a South Korean electronics worker, yet to arrive to collect his bride.
Anhvu’s camera observes but never intrudes on the journey of Tram and her family, capturing intricate details of rural life accompanied by beautiful music played mostly on traditional instruments. Tram’s family lovingly works together preparing meals, farming pineapple, durian, and longans; flowing water sustains the land and supports the family. Workers discuss issues over bowls of soup, followed by a nip of spirits, their discussions emotive and revealing.
As the wedding approaches, Tram’s father reminds her of the importance of caring for one’s aging parents. Future economic security is also a major point of discussion; can her future husband offer this? We’re never quite sure.
We meet an apprehensive Soo at the engagement party; it’s unclear if he’s ever met Tram except by text. Appearing to have travelled to Vietnam alone, he can’t speak the language – Tram’s modest understanding of her future husband’s vernacular makes for awkward greetings and moments of discomfort. Anhnvu has deliberately left Soo “untranslated so that the audience can be put in the same, alienating position that the bride is in”; this most certainly goes both ways, as Soo – surrounded by complete strangers that he can’t understand, celebrating this [hopefully] auspicious day – only appears to calm down after necking several large glasses of cold beer.
Originally intended as a two-part documentary, it’s unfortunate that Anhvu was cut off from the family and unable to complete the story from the South Korean side. As a trepidatious Tram waits for a flight out of Ho Chi Minh City to her new life, we hope that her pursuit of happiness indeed rewards and wasn’t right in front of her all along.