The Vertical Ray of the Sun
On the surface, daily life in modern Hanoi is serene in Tran Anh Hung’s The Vertical Ray of the Sun. Cinematographer Mark Lee Ping-Bin revels in the play of sun on greenery and in the gentle rituals of waking practiced by an adult brother and sister.
Underneath the ravishing imagery however, hearts are in flux. The lithe woman awakening (played by the director’s beautiful wife, Tran Nu Yên-Khé) is the youngest of three sisters — the Chekhovian allusions are no accident — each of whom leads a life considerably less peaceful than exteriors suggest. The older two wrestle with infidelities; the youngest is bound in near-incestuous intimacy with her brother. A lot goes unspoken. What matters, Tran suggests, in this sensual still life of a story, are moments: when rain washes the streets, when a woman and her lover share a meal, when the afternoon light can make a busy city look like a garden of tenderness.