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To Live

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Daniel Horowitz
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To Live

I watched the 1994 film “To Live”, a film we discussed during the seminar. The film was directed by Zhang Yimou and was not shown theatrically in China because of the manner in which the change to communist authority is depicted. The film is far more than a critique of the Communist system, in fact the first half of the film depicts a timeless China before modernity. The modern world does make a violent entrance when the lead character is caught up in the Chinese Civil War, first fighting for the Nationalist army, and later a prisoner for the Revolutionary Army where he entertains soldiers with his trade of puppetry. The movie shows a teachable bit of Chinese history, both with the Civil War and life in Communist China afterwards. But there is a fascinating philosophy that permeates the movie- events that at first seem bad turn out to be fortunate, yet the life of the main character and his wife is filled with tragedy.