The Paradox of Urban Life


In the films, Beijing Bicycle, Blind Shaft and ToLive, the filmmakers explore the struggles that people face asthey move to cities in pursuit of a better life. Urban life is oftenportrayed as an escape from the struggles, which are inherent in atraditional culture setting. However, through the films, it becomesapparent that the transition from traditional towards modern life isnot a smooth transition. In the films, the protagonists move to urbancities with the hope of getting employment, which plays a crucialrole in changing their economic status. Once in the cities, thecharacters face numerous challenges as they attempt to fit in to newcultural settings. The initiation process into the new culturesettings of urban life is as simple as they had anticipated. Theessay employs the films to depict the challenges that characters faceas they supposedly opt for better life in urban cities, where theyexpect better living conditions. However, the city seems to presentmore problems due to its constant modernization as well asever-changing environment.

In Beijing Bicycle, when Guei moves from the country to thecity, he anticipates a better and comfortable life. The characteranticipates that his life will change and is more hopeful when hemanages to get a job as a courier. The job offers Guei theopportunity of owning a bicycle, which is a prized possession. Owningthe bicycle is the only chance the character has at succeeding in thecity, and when the bicycle is stolen, he is determined to reclaim it.The journey to reclaim the bicycle introduces another character Jian.To Jian, the bicycle is a possession, which earns him status insociety, while to Guei the bicycle is his only means of surviving.The juxtaposition between Guei and Jian makes it possible tounderstand the paradox of urban life. Guei is a poor migrant thathave moved to the city with aspirations of acquiring stability inform of a stable income. However, he finds that life in the city isnot as anticipated because he has to struggle to endure in distant,chaotic as well as unfamiliar surroundings. In the new environment,traditional life and culture seems to crash with the industrious aswell as materialistic urban life.

Similarly, in Blind Shaft, the viewer gets to learn of anation that has experienced rapid economic growth, which has resultedin privatization as well as market changes. The transformationshappen in the urban city, which presents a good opportunity forindividuals living in the traditional setting to seek a betterlifestyle. However, the underside of urban life is that it only leadsto human suffering. This is made apparent through the characterFengming. He resolves to leave the happy country life with theobjective of working to make money in the city. Following three daysafter arriving in the town, Fengming becomes the subsequent targetfor Zhaoyang and Jimming murder. The latter characters make friendswith people that are new in the city and eventually murder them forindividual gain. The murders are intended at extorting money fromindividuals that own mines. Fengming has to struggle to survive andfit in the new cultural setting, which is largely characterized byselfishness.

Although the characters in To Live are different from thosein the two movies discussed above, the movie also manages to makeapparent the paradox of urban life. The movie shifts theconcentration of the viewer to the disordered, perfidious Chinathrough the aggressive culture revolution. This is made possible viathe lives of a couple that acts as a symbol of the aspiration of abetter life. The movie features the changes that happen in China, asit becomes a communist society. Despite being hopeful, that communistChina would result in more opportunities for the family, on thecontrary Fugui and Jiazhen persevere chaotic happenings in China asthey sieze to become rich and become peasants. As the years shiftfrom the 40s to the 70s, it is anticipated that life would becomebetter for the couple. However, the contrary happens. During theCultural Revolution, Fugui loses his wife, daughter and unborn sonbecause of engagement in excessive gambling.

The paradox of urban life demonstrates China’s change towardsurbanization, which draws concentration to its contribution inbreaking down traditions. The movies depict an advent kind ofsubaltern suffering that is apparent in Chinese modern society. Theyouth move to urban centers with the aspiration of getting betteropportunities to improve their lives. However, they have facednumerous challenges, which make the whole idea of a better lifeironic. The same is apparent through the life of the couple, thatdespite the Cultural Revolution happening in China, their lives donot seem to revolve but gets worse. Beijing Bicycle surveys thealtering dynamics of modern Beijing life via examination of theexperiences as well as the desires expressed by young men fromdissimilar social settings. As the movie begins, it becomes possibleto witness Guei get used to urban life. It is obvious that urban lifediffers from the traditional life, which he was used to. Urban lifeis more disorganized. This is made apparent through the disorderlystreets that are filled with vehicles as well as bicycles allstruggling to move through the same road. Guei must learn how to movethrough these roads, and the daily problems he faces during thedelivery of packages.

Likewise, in Blind Shaft, from the instance the protagonistappears in the city, he is wearing a royal blue jacket. The jacket isvisible and noticeable, which the movie employs as a manner ofcreating a contrast amid the town life. The color difference aims atdemonstrating that the young man is innocent, innocency, which isonly possible for individuals living in a traditional setting likethe one Fengming, comes from. The blue color contrasts with the graycolor apparent in the city, to signify the corruption that cannot beescaped by individuals that move to the city. As the film unfolds,the bad life people living in the city leads become apparent via thewidespread prostitution, killings, idleness and pornography. Afterthe first workday for Fengming, the blue coat is no longer strikingbecause it contains soot, which demonstrates the culture shift fromthe uncorrupt traditional culture to a corrupt urban life.

The movies aim to demonstrate that although modernization maycommunicate the hopes of a better life in urban cities, in mostinstances, life in towns is filled with more hardship. Modernizationdoes not succeed in ensuring that everyone lives the dream life. Thismeans that it is just a paradox, creating more problems for society.Beijing Bicycle is an examination of a town separated amidmodernity as well as tradition. At first, Guei and Jian are presentedas dissimilar characters that live in different social settings andare united by the desire to own a bicycle. The conflict makes itpossible to understand how people live in urban life. The moviereminds viewers that although China is rather an emerging power, thejourney to modernization does more harm than good to the nation. Itresults in the division of civilians amid the poor and wealthy, andeven for those staying in the city, there is a division amid theurban wealthy and urban poor. This means that urban life no longercreates the opportunity for people to succeed in life as is expected.Instead, individuals living in towns seem to lead more deplorablelives than those of individuals in the traditional setting.

While the setting for Blind Shaft is the coalmines, it is arepresentation of the harsh living conditions for individuals livingin cities as they struggle to survive, despite the modernizationChina experiences. The movie depicts how urban life results in anegative impact on its civilians. Within three days of living in thecity, the protagonist socializes with killers as well as beginswatching pornographic movies. The erosion of morals in towns cannotbe avoided, which is a clear contrast from the traditional life. InTo Live, it is apparent that the Cultural Revolution happeningin China does not improve the lives of civilians. When the familyloses their wealth to gambling, it symbolizes the loss of livinghappily as China modernizes.