“CHRISTOHPER WONG's score matches
(the film's) emotional depth, but buried within its sorrows is a
subtle strength and beauty that makes this score infinitely
The Other Side of Left Behind
Review by Christopher Coleman
On April 30, 1975, Saigon fell and the United States
pulled out of Vietnam. Since then, audiences have been told and
re-told the stories of the men who fought there and what happened to some
who returned home. We all know very well that the scars of that
"incident" run deep in the US. As horrific as that side of the story
can be, it is, at the most, only half. After the fall of Saigon,
some 2 million Vietnamese fled their country in search of safety and
freedom. JOURNEY FROM THE FALL tells the story of one family's quest
to reach the shores of the country that abandoned them and, for one of
them, to stand for his beliefs in the face of the victorious Viet
Cong...even if that stand is taken on the grounds of a political prison.
The film JOURNEY FROM THE FALL succeeds on many levels.
Up-and-coming director/writer, Ham Tran, delivers the story beautifully through a solid
screenplay, creative editing, and some mesmerizing photographic moments.
Telling the story through flash-backs and flash-forwards commands the
viewers attention and even when the film seems to lose its way in its
final act, Tran shows this "waywardness" was quite in hand all along. JOURNEY FROM THE FALL an indy-flick but,
not only that, it is a foreign-language indy,
written and acted in Vietnamese (brilliantly acted, I might add).
More often than not, films like this, with more heart than budget, get
buried beneath the deluge of Hollywood schrot (and even the growiing indy-shrot).
Many good films like JOURNEY simply slide under our Western noses with
hardly a sniff.
One last, but by far not the least, reason for
JOURNEY FROM THE FALL working as well as it does is CHRISTOPHER WONG's
simple, but evocative musical score. Wong's score is dominated by
two musical themes: the title theme and the "separation" or
"imprisonment" theme. Both beautiful and sorrowful, he makes the
most of these two themes throughout the score, while somehow avoiding
overuse and tedium.
The title theme sets a clear
mood for the film immediately. As the mythic legend of one of
Vietnam's greatest Emperor/Kings is narrated, the theme is
introduced by piano and followed by strings of both eastern and western origin. As scores featuring eastern instrumentation so often do, Wong's
title theme is
filled with a sense of loss and longing, but remains lined with hope -
echoing the personality of the film. One
listen to the "Legend of Le Loi" (1) and I can virtually guarantee an
addiction to its melody. Ironically, despite the theme being written
long before principle photography was completed, this piece was the last
to be completed before recording. Wong's title theme can also be
finds meaningful reprisals in "Packing Up" (8), "The Long Voyage" (10),
and "Journey from the Fall" (16).
While the title theme takes the score and movie to
it's emotional peaks, Wong's secondary theme provides a needed
counter-balance. This theme is most often played by solo guitar or
piano and reflects the isolation and separation of Vietnamese familes;
some desperately trying to reach the United States and others trying to
survive imprisonment. This theme often surfaces as the lead
character, Long Nguyen, or other prisoners of the "re-education" camps
think or talk about the family they love and will likely never see again.
This separation theme is introduced in "Drifting in the Rain" (5); solo
piano giving way to a small string ensemble. "The Promise" (7)
offers another effective performance of the theme, but this time on
guitar. In a vacuum this piece might sound a bit too "western," but
within the context of the film, one of the inmates slowly crafts a crude
guitar and upon its completion, plays this very tune.
In very much the same way that composers Mychael and
Jeff Danna have done in the past (see GREEN DRAGON or
UNCORKED) or like Zbigniew Preisner’s THE BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY,
CHRISTOPHER WONG makes the overall experience of the score feel much
larger than the sum of its instrumental parts. Almost all of the
tracks are under 3 minutes (many under 2 minutes), but when listened to
straight through, provide a thoughtful and cohesive listening experience.
The final track of music from the film, "Journey of the Fall" is by far the
longest reaching 7:54 and plays over the end credits.
Given the brevity of the score, the producers wisely added value to the release by including six
additional tracks from previous CHRISTOPHER WONG projects: one from THE
ANNIVERSARY (a previous collaboration with Ham Tran) and five from FIRST
MORNING. All of these "bonus" tracks flow nicely with the mood
established by JOURNEY, but none of which are quite as
Moviescore Media offers JOURNEY FROM THE FALL as downloadable
purchase or from
Archives Entertainment as a limited edition compact disc and
either are well worth the investment.
In recent years we have been treated to an
increasing number of books and films telling the aftermath-story from the fall of Saigon.
There have been many American movies about the lives of soldiers upon
returning from Vietnam, but now we are hearing the poignant stories of those Vietnamese who fled their
own country to find a new home.
As war always does, left in its merciless wake, are an uncountable number
of amazing stories of lives lost, lives shattered, and lives reborn.
Without question, JOURNEY FROM THE FALL is a heart-wrenching film (one
that every American should see... of Vietnamese decent or not) and
CHRISTOHPER WONG's score matches its emotional depth, but buried within
its sorrows is a subtle strength and beauty that makes this score
Legend of Le Loi
||Life in the Camp
||The Long Voyage
||Take the Family
||A New Beginning
||Journey from the Fall
||The Anniversary: End Credits
||First Morning: Going to the Fortune Teller
||First Morning: The Truth of Linh
||First Morning: Final Farewell
||First Morning: Kim Ahn Dies
||First Morning: First Morning
||Total Running Time (approx)