The Feminization of Water – Fire – Earth Natural Symbol System in Contemporary Vietnamese Films by Female Directors

Author: Le Thi Tuan (University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Vietnam National University)
Speaker: Le Thi Tuan
Topic: Language, Gender, Sexuality
The GLOCAL CALA 2022 Poster Session


Pham Nhue Giang, Nguyen Hoang Diep, and Pham Hong Anh are some of the well-known female directors of contemporary Vietnamese cinema. Their films portray a feminine voice that is bold, fierce yet gentle, delicate. There, gender awareness, body language, and ontological issues are particularly emphasized. The feminization of the Water – Fire – Earth utilizes an ancient system of natural symbols associated with humankind since primitive times to express feminine consciousness and manifestation. Unaware of the coincidence, in Mother’s Soul (2011), Flapping in the Middle of Nowhere (2014), and The Way Station (2017), all three female directors typically use the natural images of Water – Fire – Earth as symbols that emphasize feminine consciousness. That is to say; the female directors have added a sense of “feminization” to these natural entities. In particular, these symbols are unified with other cinematic symbols and “hidden words” to create a biosphere imbued with femininity in films. This article employs a gender-based approach, cultural semiotics combined with cinematic narratology to fulfill the following objectives. First is analyzing the natural symbols of Water – Fire – Earth in expressing feminine characteristics and the feminine consciousness. The second is making a preliminary assessment of the feminization of natural symbols in the three films. Explaining how gender discourses influence the stacking of derived meanings in natural symbols is the third objective. The article also offers new perspectives on the polysemy of symbols in film, particularly the Water-Fire-Earth symbol system, and affirm the voice and style of female directors in contemporary Vietnamese cinema.

Keywords: Feminization, Water – Fire – Earth symbols, Female directors, Contemporary vietnamese cinema