To Live and Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

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Inthe two films, “To live and Balzac and the little Chineseseamstress” depict the era in the Chinese history when communismwas highly practiced, and capitalism was ultimately banned by thegovernment that was in place. Communism was a political move thatwaged war on class in the society, and this meant that resources wereshared equally among the public. People worked and were paidaccording to the work they did and their needs. It shows that thecommunity the level of literacy could not differentiate people somuch. In both films, we have symbols that depict how the citizensused to live and the impact of communism on the Chinese people.

Symbolsused in To live and Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

i)A small city and its social landscape, a remote village in themountains, dirt roads

Thesmall town symbolizes a small town that was affected by the outsideworld mainly influence from the people from the western side. In Tolive film the city practices communism but about the definition ofcommunism there are scenarios that there is class among the people.For example, Xu Fugui was a wealthy man before his property wasauctioned to settle his gambling debt. This clearly shows that therewas a class in the city, and there was a form of capitalism among thepeople (Bloom,et al. pp.311-325).In a communist state everyone’s wealth is shared equally among itsenvirons but in the small city, it does not depict it. The sociallandscape of the city symbolizes a society that craves for capitalismbut with the current regime, they are forced to practice communism.

Thiswas a village that was situated in the mountains, the village was notaffected by any form of western knowledge and practiced communism.From the Balzac and the little Chinese seamstress, we find that thevillage was used as a punishment to people who valued westerneducation and influence. The people who were brought to that villagewere forced to live with the villagers who were peasants. The farmersworked together as a community as work was shared equally among theCommonwealth members. Communism was highly valued by the chief as hewas following the orders of the new regime. The villages symbolizeseclusion from the whole world.

Thedirt roads represented the tough ordeal that the people in themountain used to face. A good example would be the chief who had goneto get treatment for his tooth but he eventually due to a new dentisthe was not treated until he sought the help of Luo whose father was adentist

ii)Political posters, revolutionary music, folklores, and folk songs

Politicalposters were mainly used to show what the people felt about theregime that was in place. The two books clearly show that the peoplewere not happy with the government that was in place. A good exampleis the film ‘To live’ where we are told that the communistgovernment was facing opposition (Deppman,et al. 2010).It is told that doctors who were overeducated were being captured andput into prisons

Revolutionarymusic was also used to express what the Chinese people wanted. Anexample is that the people accepted the music played by the violinthat was bought from the population of the west. The fact that thechief of the Phoenix mountains appreciated the music that came fromthe violin shows that the people were ready to embrace the westerninfluence.

Folkloresare used to talk about traditional beliefs such as stories aboutpeople and animals. The stories that the people of the village thatthey were being told by Luo helped them to see the fact that theywere being oppressed by the regime that was in power. It reached apoint that the numerous folklores made the daughter of the tailor beable to speak the language of the city. In the process, she got thedesire to start a new life in the city (Sijie,2002).

Folksongswas another tool that was used in the book we are told that foureyes were to be offered a job in the revolutionary so long as hewould write authentic folk songs that would be printed in thejournals.

iii)Interior design of a home

Theinterior design of a home depicted the state in which the people usedto live. In ‘To live’ we find that we had people who had bighouses this shows even under communism we still had people who wereliving better lives than others. In Balzac and the Little ChineseSeamstress, we see that the people used to live in the same type ofhouse starting from the head of the village to the peasant. Thisshows that the chief of the village was a firm believer in communism.

Dothe novelist and filmmakers entirely reject the Maoist idea ofrevolutionary politics in their works?

Thewriters and the filmmakers have shown us that they do not support theradical politics brought by the Maoist regime. We have a lot ofscenarios in the two books that they shun communism. One useful caseis when some doctors in the book ‘To Live’ are sent to prison forbeing too much educated and leaving students to run hospitals. Thenovelist and filmmakers also give us a glimpse of the future when thecommunism has ended and from the look of it the characters were ableto achieve their lifetime goals. Luo became a dentist, and his bestfriend became a musician that he has always wanted to be. The regimealso denies the people the right to own books that talk about thingsthat could help them. An example is when four eyes are found with abook that talks of medicine and yet they lacked a doctor in theirvillage. The book could be used to train someone primary medicalapplications in their village. The chief of the village in themountains also shows us that we can change people and make them seethe harm in doing something. The chief was a communist, but hestarted to have a different perspective because of the wonders thatwere brought from the west like the violin. We see that thefilmmakers are showing us that revolution is possible


Itis noted that knowledge is power and that the Maoist regime fearedpeople learning about their rights as citizens. Communism is not anapplicable political revolution because it does not solve problemsbut creates more problems. The two books also teach us that we shouldnot be oppressed by people who have power, and we should rise againstthem.


Bloom,Michelle E. &quotContemporary Franco-Chinese Cinema: Translation,Citation and Imitation in Dai Sijie`s Balzac and the Little ChineseSeamstress and Tsai Ming-Liang`s What Time is it There?.&quotQuarterlyreview of Film and Video22.4 (2005): 311-325.

Deppman,Hsiu-Chuang. Adaptedfor the screen: the cultural politics of adaptation in modern Chinesefiction and film.University of Hawaii Press, 2010.

Sijie,Dai. &quotBalzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, trans.&quot InaRilke. New York: Anchor(2002).

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