Review: In The Mood For Love

In The Mood For Love

In The Mood For Love is a Chinese romantic melodrama by Wong Kar-wai. The film is about a held back romance between two neighbours, who are married to unfaithful partners, set  Hong Kong in the 1960’s. The protagonists of the film Mrs. Chan and Mr. Chow Mo-Wan live in crammed up rented apartments neighbouring each other. Both their respective partners have been shown to be away on work all throughout the film and later it has been established that they have been unfaithful. 

The most interesting thing about the film is how relevant the title acts with the way the film has been made. Wong Kar-wai starts the film with the Mr and Mrs. Chan and Mr. and Mrs. Chow moving into their new apartments in a crammed up society at the same time. We then don’t see either , Mrs. Chow or Mr. Chan as they are away on work all throughout the film. Wong Kar-Wai first sets a mood of dejection in the protagonists as both their partners cancel simple things such as dinners and dates. This mood of dejection is then elevated to a mood of loneliness, where both the protagonists are seen to be minding their own respective business and being by themselves, spending their time at home or dinner time alone (married couples are expected to be together at these times). We see them walking alone in long dark alleys, being alone at work and generally being wanting to be alone even when they can enjoy the company of others. Mrs. Chan rejects several dinner invitations from other neighbours living in the society. Mr. Chow rejects the company of his office colleague Ah Ping. After the mood for loneliness, a mood of nostalgia is established, where both the protagonists miss their parters and yearn for their attention, but don’t get it. Finally, the mood for love comes in, where both the protagonists after spending their time in dejection, loneliness and nostalgia give in to each other and get involved. They are in the mood for love, they want to be loved and they want to love as well, it’s as if they’ve lost their happiness and the source of their inner emotions and mode of expression, but only the little time they spend with each other, they get back their emotions and feelings. Their expressions are still extremely held back because of their fear of society.

What is interesting about the film is the beautiful treatment of every frame. Most of the film is framed with extremely close tight shots. They really do make the film look extremely beautiful and more interesting to watch. In my opinion, I feel the tight shots give us a certain amount of emotion. The entire film is 1 hour 38 minutes long and most of it is shot in these tight close up frames, it sort of makes the viewers feel like the protagonists with their emotions, very uptight and held close inside, really wanting to get out, but just unable to due to social norms and personal principles. A constant motif seen in the film is long dark alleys (place where they buy their noodles from, society lobby) with both the protagonists crossing each others paths, being really formal to each other. These long alley tight shots where the two cross each other act as a transition of time, showing how their relationship is evolving over time, but, not really clicking at the right spot and flourishing.

It is quite evident that both, Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan have feelings for each other, with the way they look at each other, the way they hold each other, the way they express themselves in front of each other, but neither of them really have the courage to make the first move. It leaves the viewers very obscure about their relationship. In my opinion, I feel, the two of them weren’t really meant to click, because their relationship was mainly built because of their cheating partners and they both seemed to be using each others company to get past the rejection, the loneliness, the pain and the sorrow. They needed someone to express, they were in the mood for love, a mood for a love experience, not really in love, which makes me feel that the concept of love quite intimidated them. To completely let themselves into another person frightened them, which is why, in spite of having such a high amount of chemistry between themselves, when it really mattered, neither of them had the guts to take the first step. When they finally agreed they had feelings for each other in the end, rather than embracing those feelings, they drove each other away in the fear of society.

The film makes me wonder about certain other things then, how is it the two were married to their unfaithful partners, what is it that made their partners take the drastic step of being unfaithful. Was the infidelity of their partners just physical due to their work which made them travel or was it like their infidelity, with emotions. It made me question certain norms of our society today, is physical infidelity okay as long as it’s just to satisfy physical needs? Or is it okay if a 2 people spend a lot of time with each other, pour out all their emotions into one another (while they are married to someone else), do everything a married couple is supposed to do together, but just not get physical? What is more important, physical needs or emotional needs?

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