7.0/10
498
7 user 7 critic

Life on a String (1991)

Bian zou bian chang (original title)
A blind man's master told him that after he has broken 1000 strings on his Banjo, he can open the Banjo to get a script for his eyes. After 60 years he broke the 1000th string...

Director:

Writers:

, (novel)
Reviews
2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »
Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

This film is adapted from the novel of Ah Cheng. During the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976),

Director: Kaige Chen
Stars: Yuan Xie, Xuewen Yang, Shaohua Chen
Drama | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

A violin prodigy and his father travel to Beijing, where the father seeks the means to his son's success while the son struggles to accept the path laid before him.

Director: Kaige Chen
Stars: Yun Tang, Peiqi Liu, Chen Hong
Drama | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

In pre-unified China, the King of Qin sends his concubine to a rival kingdom to produce an assassin for a political plot, but as the king's cruelty mounts she finds her loyalty faltering.

Director: Kaige Chen
Stars: Li Gong, Fengyi Zhang, Zhou Sun
Feng yue (1996)
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

Not far from Shanghai, in a country twon stands the palatial home of the Pang family. Old Master Pang is an addict who brings up his beautiful daughter Ruyi on opium smoke. Her older ... See full summary »

Director: Kaige Chen
Stars: Leslie Cheung, Li Gong, Kevin Lin
Huang tu di (1984)
Drama | History | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

'Yellow Earth' focuses on the story of a communist soldier who is sent to the countryside to collect folk songs for the Communist Revolution. There he stays with a peasant family and learns... See full summary »

Director: Kaige Chen
Stars: Xueqi Wang, Bai Xue, Quiang Liu
Drama | Music | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

The story of two men, who met as apprentices in the Peking Opera, and stayed friends for over 50 years.

Director: Kaige Chen
Stars: Leslie Cheung, Fengyi Zhang, Li Gong
Mei Lanfang (2008)
Biography | Drama | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

A biographical account of Mei Lanfang, China's greatest opera star.

Director: Kaige Chen
Stars: Leon Lai, Ziyi Zhang, Honglei Sun
Action
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.5/10 X  

Based on Xu Haofeng's novel A Monk Comes Down the Mountain, the film relates the story of a listless young Taoist cleric called He Anxia who is ejected from his impoverished monastery and ... See full summary »

Director: Kaige Chen
Stars: Tiger Hu Chen, Kwok-Kwan Chan, Aaron Kwok
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

In a remote mountain village, the teacher must leave for a month, and the mayor can find only a 13-year old girl, Wei Minzhi, to substitute. The teacher leaves one stick of chalk for each ... See full summary »

Director: Yimou Zhang
Stars: Minzhi Wei, Huike Zhang, Zhenda Tian
Drama | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  

To save the only child of the Zhao Family, whose entire clan was massacred at the hands of a nefarious minister, a doctor sacrifices his own son; after the Zhao child grows up, the doctor becomes intent on seeking his vengeance.

Director: Kaige Chen
Stars: You Ge, Xueqi Wang, Xiaoming Huang
Da yue bing (1986)
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  
Director: Kaige Chen
Stars: Qiang Guan, Lu Lei, Chun Sun
Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

A pregnant peasant woman seeks redress from the Chinese bureaucracy after the village chief kicks her husband in the groin in this comedy of justice. As she is frustrated by each level of ... See full summary »

Director: Yimou Zhang
Stars: Li Gong, Peiqi Liu, Liuchun Yang
Edit

Cast

Complete credited cast:
Zhongyuan Liu ...
Old Master
...
Shitou
...
Lanxiu
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Ling Ma ...
Noodle stall owner's wife
Erga Yao ...
Retarded man at noodle stall
Jinzhan Zhang ...
Lanxiu's father
Zhengyuan Zhang ...
Noodle stall owner / God of death
Ling Zhong ...
Pharmacist
Edit

Storyline

A blind man's master told him that after he has broken 1000 strings on his Banjo, he can open the Banjo to get a script for his eyes. After 60 years he broke the 1000th string... Written by Zheng Wang <zhwang@das.harvard.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama | Music | Romance | War

Certificate:

See all certifications »
Edit

Details

Country:

| |

Language:

Release Date:

18 March 1992 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Life on a String  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

|

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See  »
Edit

Did You Know?

Quotes

Old Master: One day, the Two Princes of Heaven were bathing in the cloud. Accidentally, they fell all the way down to earth. Soldier were sent down to close their eyes. The soldiers couldn't idetinfy the Princes among the people. So, the soldiers closed the eyes of everybody on earth.
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

Pickin' Your Way to Enlightenment
9 February 2000 | by (Marietta, GA) – See all my reviews

When one thinks of the term "enlightenment," as least with regards to cinematic portrayals, the usual images that pop up are robed monks chanting Buddhist sutras or quoting mind-imploding Zen insights. But as any good Buddhist can tell you, the roads to enlightenment are infinite. This particular old master's path to enlightenment involves the snapping of one thousand banjo strings. When the last string is broken, the old man will at last see the truth and be ready to die.

"Life on the String" is one of the most enjoyable and bittersweet Chinese costume epics I've ever experienced. But to label this somewhat obscure gem as a "costume epic" is a bit of an injustice, given its highly unusual story.

A blind old master of the pipa (Chinese banjo) and his blind apprentice wander through the wastes of Western China (Xinjiang), in search of enlightenment and inspiration. Upon settling in an abandoned hovel, the old master eagerly anticipates enlightenment and the sweet release of death, as he is on his 995th string.

This film, directed by the acclaimed director of "Farewell, My Concubine," is perhaps one of the most magnificently shot films I've ever encountered. But the most amazing aspect of this film is the music. You KNOW the old master is indeed a master when he plays his banjo. His melancholy, dreamy melodies give this film a genuine dream-like quality. The English subtitles, which are competently written, can only hint at the sublime Chinese poetry of his lyrics. The old man's music can work magic...a type of magic that the violent world that surrounds him sorely needs.

Despite "Life on a String"'s deliberate pace, you will be caught up in the story and its eccentric cast of characters. It's hard not to get lost in the seemingly endless horizons of the Chinese deserts and the hypnotic singing of the old master which swells with a lush symphonic accompaniment when he really needs to exert his magic. I also found myself feeling the old man's mounting excitement at his approaching death/enlightenment, as well as his temptation to sink into despair at this imperfect world's follies.

I highly recommend "Life on the String" for when you're in a contemplative, or perhaps "poetic", mood. For a film which deals with the theme of death, it is a very positive and uplifting work, forgoing the usual gloom and doom aura that often surrounds death. It is a film that cries out for the stillness of the soul so that one may hear a truth that can only be expressed in song.


13 of 13 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for:
?