Friday, September 19, 2008

IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE (Wong Kar-wai, 2001, Hong Kong)

Chow whispers his secrets and infidelities into the cracked stone, forever enshrined and hidden; a confession he hopes will ease the heavy burden of guilt and regret from his weary heart. Wong Kar-wai’s film examines the complexities of marriage and the strict unflinching cultural mores that prohibit Chow and So from pursuing their affair.

Emotions are conveyed through heightened color schemes and beautiful compositions that reduce Chow and So to prisoners: often filmed in tight spaces or seen through curtains and windows. Even the exterior scenes are often shot in cramped rain-soaked alleyways or staircases, as they pass each other, their passion simmering but unrequited. Chow and So are neighbors and their spouses are having an affair…with each other. We are never privileged to see their spouse’s face: we only get a few reverse shots or a contrived explanation whispered over the phone.

The first half of the film is indelibly marked by isolation, lonely shots of Chow or So as they work and go about their lives, wandering, wondering, unknowing but suspecting. When they finally meet for dinner, the truth is revealed through a handbag and tie and soon their relationship becomes, over a short amount of time, intense and passionate…but not sexual. They begin to verbally role-play their spouse’s affair, trying to understand how it all began.

This emotional repetition begins to seep into their hearts and Chow falls in love. Even as they play-act their predestined confrontations, trying to articulate their deep hurt and sadness, the bond between them grows stronger. Chow tries to make So out to be like his wife, and she reacts to this subtly malignant manipulation by refusing to come with him to Singapore. But So has fallen in love also, and their one night together leaves them feeling more empty and alone than before.

As the film ends, we get a glimpse of their lives six years later: So has a young son (about six?) and Chow is still alone, isolated from the world. Though she secretly followed Chow to Singapore, she cannot make the final decision to leave her husband. She makes this sacrifice for her young son, whom I believe is born of their passion. And Chow remains forlorn, restless, the longing for his true love tearing him apart: piece-by-piece…without peace. 


1 comment:

ADRIAN said...

I love this film, though in terms of stylistics i consider Happy Together (1997) to be much rewarding than this one. I find this film increasingly relevant and unique to the 21st century filmmaking era. Wong is the most talented guy i know. if it's a wong, then it has to have a shear focus on cinematography and mise-en-scene and that it has a narrative that is heavily dependent on this aspects. Each of his film exudes a different aura, quiet rare for a filmmaker nowadays.