“Feelings can creep up just like that. I thought I was in control.”
– Mr Chow
In the mood for love, a story about love that emerges between two people succumbed to similar circumstances of betrayal and loneliness. Set in Hong Kong, the movie revolves around the two protagonists, Mr Chow and Su Li-zhen. As fate would have it, both the protagonists were moving into their neighboring apartments of the same building on the very same day. Without help from their respective spouses, who used to work late hours, Mr Chow and Su were constantly succumbed to loneliness. In a crowded city, bustling with activity, the protagonists found themselves alone. Circumstances would lead them to each other in one-way or another whether it was through everyday activities or even their mutual liking and stroll to the noodle bar down the street. A repetitive image or scene of them eating alone added to the misery and solitude they were feeling and they both sought solace from the other.
“You notice things if you pay attention.”
– Su Li-zhen Chan
As their friendship grew, the protagonists became aware of their spouses infidelity. They realized that their spouses were actually seeing each other! Absolutely taken aback by their discovery, the duo decided to understand how their spouses’ relationship began by actually re-enacting their encounter and imagining the series of events leading to their relationship. Their mutual pain, anger and melancholy helped them find comfort in each other.
With the lapse of time and Chow and Su’s friendship grew stronger. Chow invites Su to write a martial arts column with him. The growing closeness between the protagonists results in questions being raised against them in society. With unwanted attention and questions raised about their connection, Chow rents a hotel room away from the city where they could work together. Before they knew it, the duo had developed strong feelings for each other. They choose not to move ahead with their relationship because of social and ethical concerns; they preferred not stooping down to the level of their spouses.
“For us to do the same thing,” they agree, “would mean we are no better than they are.”
Soon, Chow decides to move to Singapore for work and asks Su Li-zhen to join him. After a lot of hesitation and thinking, she goes to his apartment only to not find him there, she was too late. As time passes by, she decides to go visit him but is unable to talk to him, let alone meet him.
Years later when Su moves back into the apartment, she moves in with her son. As fate would have it, Chow goes to visit his landlords, the Koos only to find out that they had emigrated a couple of years ago. On inquiring further he came to realize that a young woman and her son had moved in next door. Without realizing that the young woman was Su, Chow leaves.
“They went up a mountain, found a tree, carved a hole in it, and whispered the secret into the hole. Then they covered it with mud. And leave the secret there forever”
– Mr Chow
The film ends with Mr Chow in Cambodia, where, at a ruined monastery, he whispers for some time into a hollow in a ruined wall.
The film leaves the audience with a whole lot to imagine. The film leaves a lot of unanswered questions that leaves the audience wanting more and thinking about the possibilities that might have occurred. The couple was in the mood for love, they wanted to be with each other, but circumstances kept pulling them apart. They are constantly worried about what society will think of them and how they themselves don’t ever want to stoop low to the level of their spouses. Time and Place keeps pulling them apart.
Another important factor in the film were the scenes and camera angles. The film had a wide color palette of deep shades such a browns, reds and yellows. It used deep shadows and camera angle movement to express the closeness of the apartments as well as their separation. All the shots in the film were taken from the angle of an onlooker as though someone is looking at the couple from outside a room or from another corner. This also added to the understanding of society at that time and the idea of hiding and keeping their closeness a secret. Even towards the end of the film, the camera angles moving with Chow, immerse the viewer in the film completely and leave us heart broken at the thought of their continued loneliness and their melancholic journey through love.
An interesting factor was that the cheating spouses of the protagonists were almost completely hidden and were not focused upon at all. They were either face turned or hiding behind objects leaving the focus of the film onto our romantic duo.
The movie had various shots of just the couple, not speaking almost admiring the other for minutes at a stretch, immersing the audience in their relationship even further and making the audience believe in their togetherness.
In the mood for love, a melodramatic romantic film was definitely heart breaking. We are taken through a journey of love, tested with time, place and society. Two people longing to be with each other constantly battling barriers, fail to make it together. The mannerism in the shooting of the film as well as setting of the film only added to the experience of us being a part of it. It is only because we truly felt the sense of belonging and sadness for the protagonists that we are left heart broken and wanting more at the end.