Film Review: In The Mood For Love

‘In the Mood for Love’, directed by Wong Kar-wai, is a film about love and loneliness. At a first glance, it seems to have a rather simple narrative about two neighbors whose spouses are having an affair and the neighbors finding comfort in one another, but as I looked deeper it seemed to have a number of narratives flowing through. Although the narrative wasn’t so complex, I feel the way it had been shot added a great deal of emotion and depth to the film.

In most movies the dialogues play the biggest role in conveying its message. However, in the case of ‘In the Mood for Love’, I felt like the dialogues had a minimal role and all the other elements and symbols of the film were much more evocative. These elements include sound, light, colour, setting, costume etc.

An element employed by the filmmaker that I found very unusual was the cutting of the scenes. The first few times it seemed as though it was an error but the continuous application of this pattern showed that it was intentional. After paying more attention to these abrupt endings, I came to realize that the scenes were cut only after the conversation was complete. I also noticed that many of the scenes were just spoken about and weren’t even shown in the film, which urged me to pay more attention. Through the film there were many scenes where only the voices of people were heard. For instance, the neighbors’ spouses’ faces weren’t seen at all and their presence in the movie was only indicated through their voice. So much so, through the movie the people that were physically present too, reduced and by the end of the film there were hardly four people left. According to me it was a symbol of the lonely path the protagonists, Mr. Chow and Mrs. Cheung were heading towards. The loneliness is foreshadowed throughout the movie with the dark allies, gloomy passages and the lack of people in the movie as a whole.

The shots in this film are either extremely tight and crammed or have immense physical depth. The crammed scenes are mostly the events that take place indoors and the scenes with depth are the outdoor ones like the ally Mr. Chow and Mrs. Cheung keep meeting in or the passage of the hotel. An interesting element added to the film is that you never know what time of the day it is or how much time has passed, despite them showing the clock on several occasions. The only way you know that time has passed is by the change of clothes as the entire movie is gloomy, or through the dialogues. Although time may be moving really fast, the movie over all was a little slow, which according to me created that sense of melancholy, making one feel for Mr. Chow and Mrs. Cheung. What also adds to the depressing feeling is the fact that there are only a few sets repeated, which makes the viewers pity the protagonists. It gives the sense of what an affair could do to a person; what’s left is just the same routine with the added loneliness. The filmmakers, also very subtlety put in symbols of loneliness which are sometimes hard to pick up and put into context, such as eating alone, coming home late and wearing dull clothes.

The scene I found the most cinematically interesting was when Mr. Chow and Mrs. Cheung reenact how they think the affair between their partners started. It’s the same scene that’s repeated twice, first when, Mr. Chow tries to court Mrs. Cheung and right after that the exact same scene when Mrs. Cheung tries to court Mr. Chow but no conclusion is arrived at and the scene just changes without any determination of what really happened. Another scene that fascinated me was when Mr. Chow and Mrs. Cheung play out what would happen if Mrs. Cheung confronted her husband, where Mr. Chow played the role of her husband.

I feel like this is a rather romantic story, which focuses so much on love and moral values. Mr. Chow and Mrs. Cheung, heartbroken, ponder over how their spouses started their affair and try to re enact it to understand what actually happened, but in the process start falling for each other but kept their distance. One of the strongest dialogues in this film is: “for us to do the same thing would mean we are no better than them”.

They restrained themselves from having an affair but still fell in love with each other. So, at a moral standpoint the question arises, did they still cheat on their marriage?

They did spend a lot of time together and they did make each other happy. For instance whenever Mr. Chow and Mrs. Cheung were together the clothes worn by Mrs. Cheung were always brighter and floral as compared to the greys she wore before. This contrast in colour signifies the happiness that’s in her life again. What also highlights the fact that they were truly in love is because of the sensual instrumental music that plays whenever they are together or when they are thinking about each other, which always happens to be at the same time. Through the film only 2 soundtracks are played; the instrumental one and a Spanish track and the repetition of the music enumerates the same emotion felt at those times.

Although this was a very confusing film with emotions all over the place, what left me stumped was the ending when Mrs. Cheung moves back to the apartment with a child. So who’s child was it? Her husband’s? Mr. Chow’s? Did she in fact have a physical relation with Mr. Chow? Who was she with now? What makes it even more heartbreaking was to see that Mr. Chow after all those years came to visit but Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chang could never meet and have their happily ever after.

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