‘In the mood for love’, the poignantly melancholy drama is arguably auteur Wong Kar-wei’s best work. Starring Tony Leung (as Mr. Chow) and Maggie Cheung (as Su Li-zhen) , and beautifully photographed by cinematographer and long-time collaborator Christopher Doyle, ‘In the mood’ is a voyeuristic glimpse into the pain and suffering of pining lovers who bounded by their social confines, keep in their moral checks while their adultering spouses flaunt their abject turpitudes abound.
So much is left unsaid in this movie, and yet that is the beauty of the film. There were several moments, wherein I had the urge to drift off into deep thought, regarding the characters, their motivations and ‘how they felt’, which to the director’s credit, is a magnificent feeling to evoke amongst an audience.
My personal love for this movie is mainly because of its element of reality – not quite in the conventional sense, but that the story itself is told from a perspective that forces one to contemplate. The narrative, instead of focusing on the conventionality of adulterers, explores the other facet – the loyal partners… their struggle with pain and betrayal, and the subsequent aspects of jealousy and concerns of ‘not stooping to their spouse’s level’.
The camera work is superb, and the angles with which Mr. Wong captures his scenes – visually speaking – are as if each silent frame has an incumbent story of itself. From going across wall partitions, to flowing footsteps along lengthy corridors, each image is different and powerful. My only complaint would be the abrupt and somewhat jarring freeze frames: the stillness is captured twice, both times in the hotel corridor. The first time was with Su leaving the room, and the second time with Chow in the hallway. I believe it signifies a ‘Time standstill’.
I also liked how Wong Kar-Wai uses the abundance of mirrors in his shots. Many a times, the characters would be seen in a miror, or in a mirror inside a mirror. I guess it signified how ‘image-conscious’ the society was, and that everything is about how one looks to the outside world. Thus sacrificing their pure love for the fear of gossip in the community, the two neighbors succumb to the societal and communal norms. Both Chow and Su initially admit that there is nothing between them (while discussing the serials), but still don’t want to take a chance with people getting the wrong impression.
Another recurring motif is the use of comfortable slippers vis-a-vis the heels. Ms. Su, whenever she’s with Mr. Chow, or feels relaxed, wears the slippers. However, she gives up her comfort and personal pleasure for the heels, which I think again signifies the social image and societal importance of outside appearance. Then there’s the street corner where the two would meet. It seems as a solitary hideout, a place of respite, a place far enough from the world they live in, to spend a few moments with each other, and just talk.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the hauntingly melodious background score, that oddly enough, features tunes from Nat King Cole.
Suggested movies – 2046 (the sequel to the above movie), Closer.
Also by Wong Kar-Wei: Chungking Express, Fallen Angels, the upcoming My Blueberry Nights.