Stunning, convincing, and a kaleidoscope of humour, tragedy, courage, dignity, and everything else that goes into a life. My first movie from Zhang Yimou (director) has me thirsting for more of his works. The movie travels the life of a couple, Fugui and Jiazhen, from sometime in the 1940s to about three decades later. The couple go from rich landlords to labourers and then middle class, and as they make this journey, the viewer is given glimpses of Mao’s revolution. But that is just the backdrop. The real story here, in my opinion, is about the continuity of life. About remorse as experienced by Fugui when he loses everything in gambling. About dignity so beautifully portrayed by his wife, Jiazhen. About surviving a war and living each day as it comes. About forgiving and about loving. Artistically shot, the movie has its funny moments, my favourite is when Fugui is served vinegar while he thinks it is tea.
The movie benefits from supporting actors, which includes the couple’s children. The love between the siblings produces a few memorable scenes, like the brother (Youqing) fighting with boys that tease his sister (Fengxia) or the community kitchen scene (had me smiling). I also fondly remember the scene when the sister serves food to her parents and brother soon after they’ve had an argument. Fugui’s war time friend (Chunsheng) and the town leader provide comic and tragic moments. I also loved the character of Fengxia’s husband. Come to think of it, every single character in the movie is well etched and acted – the hallmark of great cinema.
I highly recommend ‘To Live’. It is alive.