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To Live (1994)
"Huo zhe" (original title)

Not Rated  |   |  Drama, War  |  December 1994 (USA)
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Ratings: 8.3/10 from 10,985 users  
Reviews: 85 user | 20 critic

Fugui and Jiazhen endure tumultuous events in China as their personal fortunes move from wealthy landownership to peasantry. Addicted to gambling, Fugui loses everything. In the years that ... See full summary »



(screenplay), (novel), 1 more credit »
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Title: To Live (1994)

To Live (1994) on IMDb 8.3/10

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Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 7 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast overview:
Ben Niu ...
Town Chief
Wan Erxi
Deng Fei ...
Xu Youqing
Tao Guo ...
Tianchi Liu ...
Xu Fengxia, as an adult
Zongluo Huang ...
Fu Gui's Dad
Yanjin Liu ...
Fu Gui's Mom
Dahong Ni ...
Lian-Yi Li ...
Sgt. Lao Quan
Xiao Cong ...
Xu Fengxia, as a teenager
Zhang Lu ...
Fengxia, as a child
Yan Su


Fugui and Jiazhen endure tumultuous events in China as their personal fortunes move from wealthy landownership to peasantry. Addicted to gambling, Fugui loses everything. In the years that follow he is pressed into both the nationalist and communist armies, while Jiazhen is forced into menial work. They raise a family and survive, managing "to live" from the 40's to the 70's in this epic, but personal, story of life through an amazing period. Written by docraven

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Drama | War


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

December 1994 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

To Live  »

Box Office


SGD 482,000 (Singapore)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Clint Eastwood's personal favorite of the competition entries at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival where Eastwood was Jury President. See more »


Little Bun: [playing with chickens] When will they grow up?
Xu Jiazhen: Very soon.
Little Bun: And then?
Xu Fugui: And then... the chickens will turn into geese... and the geese will turn into sheep... and the sheep will turn into oxen.
Little Bun: And after the oxen?
Xu Fugui: After oxen...
Xu Jiazhen: After oxen, Little Bun will grow up.
Little Bun: I want to ride on an ox's back.
Xu Jiazhen: You will ride on an ox's back.
Xu Fugui: Little Bun won't ride on an ox... he'll ride trains and planes... and life will get better and better.
See more »


Referenced in The Safety in Rubber (2007) See more »

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User Reviews

Simple epic, masterfully made
19 July 2003 | by (UK) – See all my reviews

When I re-watched FAREWELL MY CONCUBINE recently I was surprised that it was much less political than I remembered it being. Turns out that's because I'd somehow merged together that film and TO LIVE together in my poor muddled brain. Both have some similarities, beyond the common appearance of Gong Li in front and Zhang Yimou behind the camera, but TO LIVE definitely confronts the political (I should really say "social") aspects of the decades they cover much more directly and forcefully.

TO LIVE (aka LIFETIMES - I dunno what the Chinese name is) basically covers 3 or 4 decades of one family's life in China, in a period that saw not one but two revolutions, and looks at the effect the social upheaval had on ordinary people's lives. The film rarely criticises the political movements instigated by Mao Tse Tung, but does an effective job of showing the hellishness of a society that has been turned on its head, where the people are forced to change not just the way they live but the way they think, and people are forced into social relationships that are new, and quite possibly against human nature.

I hope I won't jeapordise my visa if I admit that I had strong leanings towards Communism when I was younger, having read Marx in philosophy classes. His picture of a society without private possessions or social hierarchy did seem very appealing, but Marx acknowledged that the only way for such a society to work was if every member saw the value of it and willingly took part in it, and admitted that the only way that was likely to happen was via massive revolution - i.e. killing everyone that didn't agree with the plan. As a teenager, that didn't seem like such a big price or problem

Certainly I'm not the only person to have considered this price worth paying, and a couple of people have actually put the plan into practice - lamentably with less than stellar results. Mao Tse Tung is, I guess, the undisputed king of Communist revolution, having led TWO of them in China, and probably disrupting more peoples' lives than anybody else in history in the process. TO LIVE gives those of us that haven't had to live through such conditions some idea of what it might have been like. People used to the cushy capitalist western lifestyle might wonder just how on earth people can live through conditions like that, but that's the what the film wants to say... life might deal you some crappy hands, but people are remarkably adaptable and resilient, and you've just got to try to live the best you can. It sounds remarkably trite put like that, but the film does a good job of expressing it.

The film is based on a novel, with the author co-writing the screenplay as well. Zhang Yimou directs brilliantly as usual, which in this case is to recognise the strength of the story and characters and to back off a little, giving them space to live their lives. Although the film looks great throughout, the cinematography is quite unobtrusive. He once more elicits a great performance from Gong Li and the rest of the cast, with leading man Ge You giving the best one of all. The film has occasionally been criticised for throwing piling too much tragedy on, but this is never done in an exploitative/manipulative way, and Zhang Yimou avoids turning to melodrama to evoke an audience reaction... which makes him all the more likely to get one (and without the audience feeling used afterwards).

In a career full of magnificent films, TO LIVE stands as one of Zhang Yimou's finest moments. The film is epic yet remarkably simple, and the execution is as near to flawless as I've seen. I doubt that even Akira Kurosawa could have handled the material better, which is to say that Zhang Yimou surely ranks in the world's top echelon of film-makers. Long may his life and career continue

Highest recommendation!

50 of 53 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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Your reviews make me wonder if i saw the same film.. Trickyrich
How did Fengxia die?? its-hard-to-explain
What is the meaning behind the title? Lefantome16
Has anyone read the book? vietdawg
My stupid DVD is broken! Someone please fill in a gap solo_duk
Book alice_wooly
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