This is a semi-autobiographical film by director Hou Hsiao-Hsien. In the film, a Hakka family left China and settled temporarily in a small town Fengshan in southern Taiwan in 1947. When the civil war broke out in China, they were forced to stay on this island. Spanning from the year 1947 to 1960, t...(Read more)
This is a semi-autobiographical film by director Hou Hsiao-Hsien. In the film, a Hakka family left China and settled temporarily in a small town Fengshan in southern Taiwan in 1947. When the civil war broke out in China, they were forced to stay on this island. Spanning from the year 1947 to 1960, the film’s story follows the growing-up of the boy Ah-hao and the passing-away of the older generation of immigrants to portray this significant period of Taiwanese history. It is during this period that Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist government reluctantly gave up the hope of reclaiming China. As the young son in the family, Ah-hao was insensitive to the sadness and ill health of his parents. He was happy to be left alone as a rebellious teenager and messed around with local gang members. Not until the death of his grandma did he shamefully realize he had not been a good son and that a whole generation was gone....
This film, together with A Summer at Grandpa’s (1984) and Dust in the Wind (1986), forms Hou’s trilogy of three coming-of-age tales in post-war Taiwan. Through microscopic stories of the individuals, they reflect the collective social atmosphere and the political-economic transition it underwent. The film’s opening scene, accompanied by Hou’s wistful voice-over, starts with the empty Japanese-style dormitory where Ah-hao’s family lives, bringing his past childhood memories and deceased family members to life in visual representation. By the end of the film, the death of the protagonist’s beloved grandmother, whose dead body has lain dead on the tatami mat for several days before it is found by her astonished grandchildren and taken care of by the undertaker, marks the conclusive ending of his childhood.
The English title “The Time to Live and the Time to Die” implies growing-up is not only a phase of life, but also the process where we inevitably experience loss and gravitate towards the mortal end, as what German philosopher Heidegger characterizes as “being-toward-death.” Seemingly lacking a dramatic arc, the film is punctuated by a series of episodic vignettes where Ah-hao witnesses his immediate family members pass away. The film is often edited in single-shot sequences, capturing the atmospheric or emotional mood instead of adhering to the dramatic causality of classical narrative structure. Composed of various visual metaphors or metonyms, the scenery or landscape shots also have an emotional impact upon viewers. Its nostalgic look back at childhood and lyrical depictions of pre-modern rural life and intimate human connections before the modernization and urbanization of the 80s in Taiwan, altogether form the foundation of this film. Also, through Hou’s signature static camera, long takes and multi-layered in-depth composition, he successfully established himself as the realist auteur of Taiwan cinema. These stylistics enhance the emotional dimension of Hou’s “growing-up trilogy” and later add a sophisticated and self-reflexive touch to his subsequent “Taiwan trilogy:” A City of Sadness (1989), The Puppetmaster (1993) and Good Men, Good Women (1995),
DVD source：Taiwan Cinema Toolkit, Ministry of Culture, R.O.C.
|Language：||Mandarin, Hakka, Taiwanese|
|Producer：||HSU Hsin-Chih, LIN Deng-Fei, HSU Kuo-Liang|
|Actors：||YOU An-Shun, TANG Ru-Yun, TIAN Feng, MEI Fang, HSIAO Ai, HSIN Shu-Fen|
|Screenplay：||HOU Hsiao-Hsien, CHU Tien-Wen|
|Mark LEE Ping Bin|
|Excluded for public screenings：||Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Macau, Japan, France|
The royalty period of this film has expired. Taiwan Cinema Toolkit could no longer authorize screenings.
Central Motion Picture Corporation
1985 Golden Horse Awards, Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress Awards
1985 Asia-Pacific Film Festival, Special Jury Award
1986 Berlin International Film Festival, FIPRESCI Prize of “Forum of New Cinema”
1986 Torino Film Festival of Young Cinema, Jury Special Prize
1987 International Film Festival Rotterdam, Best Non-American/Non-European Film Award