Film. Régis Wargnier's Indochine is a somewhat atypical example of the French heritage film. The story of Eliane Devries (Catherine Deneuve) the owner of a rubber plantation in French Indochina, Camille (Linh Dan Pham), Eliane's adopted daughter, and Jean-Baptiste (Vincent Perez), the lover of both women, Indochine is typical of heritage works in its visually stunning representation of a disappeared past. However, it is atypical in that it represents a period of French history generally absent from the national memory—the end of the Empire.
   Indochine is structured, more or less, as one long flashback sequence. As the film opens, the scene is completely white. Slowly, the white turns to mist that clears to reveal a Vietnamese funeral while, through voice-over, Eliane explains that it is the funeral of two Vietnamese nobles, whose daughter she has adopted. The veil of mist and the voice-over signal that this scene and everything that follows is flashback and that the French Indochina only exists, in the narrative present, in Elaine's memory.
   As this sequence illustrates, the narrative of the film, and by extension the whole of French Indochina, is located in the domain of Eliane's personal memory, thereby completely erasing the point of view of the Indochinese. And since Eliane is played by Catherine Deneuve, probably the most recognizable French actress in the world, it is fairly clear that the perspective we have on the colonial past is that of France itself.
   This use of a single point of view also renders the film nostalgic, making it less historical epic than act of memory. Also interesting with regard to the film's use of nostalgia and heritage is the fact that it casts colonization as a form of adoption, wherein France is seen to take possession of the helpless Indochina in order to protect and educate the country. While this is a depiction that would be subject to great historical scrutiny, it is exactly in line with the rhetoric used during Empire to justify colonization, a policy referred to as the "civilizing mission" of colonialism.
   Despite all of these nostalgic, seemingly apologist elements, the valorization of colonization in the film is not without nuance. The French are sometimes depicted as brutal and cruel, as when Eliane beats her workers, or when Camille and Jean-Baptiste witness the sale of "prisoners" into what is essentially slavery. Nonetheless, the film tends to look back on the period of Empire with a certain fondness that these moments do not quite negate. The film also foregrounds the Indochinese landscape, presenting it in beautiful, vivid colors that are highly exotic, a presentation that in some ways mirrors the representation of the character of Camille. The film's mise-en-scène is so spectacular, in fact, it often functions to mask the underlying elements of colonial nostalgia. Indochine, for all of these reasons, was a highly successful film in France, and it also did very well internationally, even in the United States, where it was awarded an Oscar for Best Foreign Film.

Historical Dictionary of French Cinema. . 2007.

Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Indochine — (1992)    Film. Régis Wargnier s Indochine is a somewhat atypical example of the French heritage film. The story of Eliane Devries (Catherine Deneuve) the owner of a rubber plantation in French Indochina, Camille (Linh Dan Pham), Eliane s adopted …   Guide to cinema

  • Indochine —    Drame de Régis Wargnier, avec Catherine Deneuve, Vincent Pérez, Linh Dan Pham.   Pays: France   Date de sortie: 1991   Technique: couleurs   Durée: 2 h 40   Prix: Oscar du meilleur film étranger    Résumé    Des vies qui se détruisent, un… …   Dictionnaire mondial des Films

  • Indochine Française — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Indochine (homonymie). Indochine française Liên bang Đông Dương …   Wikipédia en Français

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