To Live

Published on Author claud

Watching To Live was a very interesting experience, and I am not surprised that it was met with so much controversy by the Chinese government. The portrayal of the Communist Government was eye-opening, and I thought it was especially interesting to see the juxtaposition of the transformation of China’s status quo and the transformation of Fugui’s character. Seeing China change through Civil War, the Great Leap Forward, and its own Cultural Revolution helped give me more clarity into exactly what was happening in China, especially because those are topics that I haven’t spent much time on in previous history classes. Certainly, one aspect of the movie that will stick with most people (and was definitely the topic of conversation after viewing it) was the personal tragedy and sadness that occurred throughout the film for Fugui’s family. What stuck with me, however, was Fugui’s speech that he repeats at the end of the film for his grandson, alluding to the idea that everything was going to get better, and that with time, China would turn into a better place for a child to grow up in. This transition period for China is a vital one, and Fugui knows that there is light at the end of the tunnel. As the family sits down for dinner, the audience is shown how even through difficult life experiences, the Chinese family was still tight-knit.

5 Responses to To Live

  1. I rephrased your last sentence: isn’t this tight-knit function partly a reflection of the nature of work (reflecting a period now 20 years in the past) and life in a small town? No one has to commute, work hours still revolve around basic tasks governed by the diurnal pace of life. And of course the child is still dependent upon his grandparents. Do you think this is what we would observe of a family in Shanghai or Beijing?

  2. One of the aspects of this movie which I found particularly revealing was Long’er’s execution after he refused to distribute his wealth and property to the local government. As I watched the film, I had thought that the punishment — public execution — seemed extreme. However, in Li’s “Village China Under Socialism and Reform” he recounts similar incidents in 1950 with uncooperative landlords which resulted in 8 people being punished with death and 13 sentenced to death with a reprieve. Long’er’s punishment in the film is not an instance of film theatrics, but instead is an accurate portrayal of China during this period.

  3. Fugui tells his grandchild that everything will be better in the future. However, the grandchild would experience the one child policy. This policy has placed family planning into the government’s hands. According to recent study, China’s only children tend to be more pessimistic, more self-centered, less competitive, less conscientious and more risk averse. These are all traits that will have huge implications on the economy. Additionally, birth restrictions threaten the country’s labor force, which has been the backbone of its economic growth in recent decades.

    • Ah, is the “one child” policy binding in today’s China? After all, the opportunity cost of having a child is high, particularly given the pressure for education, and the greater value of parents’ time. What has happened to fertility elsewhere in the world, where no such restrictions exist? In addition, there are lots of exceptions to the one child rule, particularly in the countryside. Actual fertility rates are 1.5+ (above the levels of Japan and Korea and Taiwan and I suspect also Hong Kong).

  4. Although I’ve read the novel version of To Live, the film is still very interesting and at the same time depressing to watch. The stories depicted in the book and the film are a bit different in that one is about a family tragedy in the city (the film) and the other is in the countryside (the book). While the main idea remains the same, the book is more depressing but also more vague, so maybe that’s the reason why the book is not banned but the film is.

    It is also one of the few works that have influenced my perception of lives, and the question of why we live. It seems that in the film, people live for the sole purpose of being alive. When Fugui was involved in the civil war, despite facing extreme conditions and difficulties, he told himself that he had to stay alive no matter what happened. He told himself the same thing over and over again after one tragedy and another. This reminded me of what Perkins wrote in China’s Rise in Historical Perspective: “… pain and stagnation were nevertheless an important element in making possible the sweeping changes in the economic system that occurred after 1978”.