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The movie, ‘To Live’ begins just before the Communist takeover of China and the opening scenes are almost in stark contrast to the approaching storm of revolution, which the country is soon to be swooped into. The Chinese couple, which is going to be with us through the movie, is shown in slight discord. The movie unfolds with Xu Fugui, a reckless gambler, who loses his wealth during the 1940s. He and his wife Jiazhen are forced to take up a shadow puppet troupe and eventually entertain Communist Party of China soldiers once they are captured.
They manage to return home after some time but their daughter Fengxia became mute. However, they manage to survive the revolution with moderate shrewdness. Fugui carries on with his puppet show but soon his son Youqing is killed in an accident by the district headman Chunsheng.
The art of puppet show becomes a target of the Cultural Revolution. It is termed counter-revolutionary. However, the mute girl, Fengxia, is in love with a local Red Guard leader Wan Erxi and marries. During her childbirth, there was another crisis at hand. It was found that the trained nurses and doctors were put into manual labor by the revolution. The family retrieved a doctor from the labor camp with Wan Erxi’s influence. However, at a time when Fengxia was suffering from hemorrhage and the present nurses knew nothing of the remedy, it was found that the doctor was unconscious of overeating, as he was fed for a long time in the camp. This ultimately caused Fengxia to die from hypovolemia.
This wonderful film is an epic, which depicts China through the turbulent periods of its history, which saw it being swept under the Communist jackboot, thrust into the Cultural Revolution after enduring the Great Leap Forward. The story culminates with the rise of the Red Guard.
The technique the director chooses is to show the couple appearing against the backdrop of the different political and social upheaval, a little more miserable in each period. The device helps to build up the message of the film that a family, which survives together, stays together and is happier even in the face of calamity. As the events in the film take us through much of the 1940’s right through to the ’60s, the couple appears in every period depicted and strikes an affinity with us viewers as people we know very well.
The couples living its life in the huge backdrop of historical events, comes across to us as old friends, as we closely follow their tribulations. Life’s horrors are nothing in comparison to love, companionship, and happiness, which common people turn to for solace when faced with calamities. That we realize this so clearly in the film is a compliment to the film’s script and editing. (Answers, 1)
The tribulation, which the family faces are little slices of the horrors, which other people are facing. These are deliberately added to emphasize the metaphor for human survival. In one scene, an entire village’s cooking utensils are ordered to be sacrificed for the making of cannonballs and then its inhabitants are told grandiosely that Communism will look after and provide for them. This is a quietly anti-Communist movie, which uses soft or family undertones to really shape a strong statement that people do not have to rely on the political system to survive. The family can depend on itself to survive all this.
The husband quite clearly, is not destined to get ahead in China’s dynamic, if quite calamitous, political upheavals. However, the couple accommodates each movement in the decades following, convinced that happiness is going to be theirs someday. This is something that reflects the human condition now when survival is threatened and little solace is to be had from anything but family and human bonds. As life gets worse in the film, the couple acquiesces with whatever the party demands in its bid for survival, and like most ordinary working-class people know this is the only sensible thing to do. (CW, 1)
The reality of the movie is palpable and the sort of situation depicted rings true. We have to remind ourselves, at the end of the movie, that reality was filmed after all!
Answers; To Live; answers. 2008. Web.
CW; ToLive; celebritywonder; 2008. Web.