In the mood for love
‘In the mood for love’ directed by Kar Wai Wong is set in a Shanghai enclave in Hong Kong in 1962. This movie is centered on two people who have rented adjacent rooms in a small, cramped up apartment. The journey of the protagonists through unrequited love in their marital life and a building of a relationship with each other, are shown in a romantic melancholic manner.
Wong’s use of repetition, colour, and series of revelations have helped in the development of the plot. There are contrasting factors among the protagonists and the other characters. Chow’s friend, Su’s boss and the landladies have abrasively loud characters, differing extensively from the quiet and soft personalities of the lead couple which make the journey through the movie unique.
Apart from the use of the supporting characters with distinct personalities, Wong has also been successful in using the absence of characters in the plot of the story. The lead couple’s cheating spouses are never seen in totality. They are either covered by the corridors of furniture or just by their voices. However the viewer can still feel their impact and their presence.
There is a dwindling of characters towards the end of the movie, which is another contrasting setting chosen by the director. The compact tenant that is seen crowded with people and packed with noise throughout the movie is seen deserted and uninhabited by the end, which adds to the essence of absence. The struggle of being cheated on, and moving into a complicated relationship with the cheated, can be seen exemplified by the empty flats and the less of characters through the film.
The protagonists relationship with their spouses that was lived in solitary can be mirrored to the repetitive use of long and empty corridors. The presence of these corridors was always shown in the scenes where the protagonists were away from each other, or thinking about their unfaithful marriage. A distinct frame, which repeats through the movie, is the position of the protagonist in the corridors, as they are either standing outside of them or it is empty. This can be related to the loneliness felt by the lead couple and their attempts to put an end to it.
Wong’s use of repetition seen by the constant use of frames with corridors is also given importance to by the cinematographers: Mark Lee Ping Bin, Kwan Pun Leung, and Christopher Doyle. They have made the use of tight and long shots extensively during these frames to increase the thematic and emotional aspect of the film.
Apart from the style of shooting, the cinematographers have also made use of repetition when they show scenes of the protagonist and a build up of their relationship. The scenes of the lead couple even when they were together were always shown through a mirror or a window and never seen in the same frame. In these single shots, every reaction that had its own identity was captured and shown to the viewer. Therefore they have metaphorically shown the duality amongst the protagonists even when they are in the same setting.
The running of parallel narratives along with the tragedies and growing love story between the protagonists is an interesting tool used by the director to break a monotony that could set into the story line. These different narratives are seen linked to each other with their relation to the leads. Apart from the narratives of the surrounding characters, the different roles played by the protagonists, when they tried mimicking the relation of their spouses or the scene of how they perceived the affair to start, ran parallel to the center story.
Music is a huge contributor to the movie. It keeps the story interesting and engages the viewer by projecting the feeling of an action sequence even though there is none. Throughout the film there are only two tracks that are used. This music is used during the scenes of revelations, or during the build up of the leads relation. The monotony of the music creates a routine for the couple and the repetition of it causes their relationship to grow stronger. The recurrent tracks also play a role in associative memory, as the sound of the track will always make the viewer relate to the protagonist. Apart from associating the viewers with the central characters, the music also reflects how the lead had the same thought processes at the same time.
The change in the moods of the protagonist can be clearly seen through the changes in the costumes of Su. In the beginning of the film, Su wears dark colours with striped patterns, projecting the dismal mood. The time when Su and Chow start getting to know each other over their lunch dates, she starts to wear bright colours with floral patterns, projecting the mood of a blossoming relation.
Kar Wai Wong has made use of repetitive motifs to make the viewer resonate and relate to multiple signifiers that can be seen projecting from this film. His jagged edits, and use of colour has been used to symbolize the passage of time. The last scene where Chow whispers in the hole of a tree creates a melancholic romantic and emotional mood. The fact that still the very end of the movie, the protagonists were still with their spouses and had moved on with time, showed their realization of how they were never meant to be. The compact use of dialogues and tight shots of expressions, helped the viewer grasp and become a part of the journey and exceptional love story.