Wednesday, October 17, 2012

In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-wai)

Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan.

It is quite well-known that Wong Kar-wai's filmography is one of great cinematic essence, so as a long-time film fan, I am quite ashamed to say that this is the first film of his that I have ever seen. But what I have felt right at the very moment the film has started is one of immediate admiration. "In the Mood for Love", a film of quiet romantic power, is really not about love at its most denotative sense. Instead, like the later "Lost in Translation", it is a film of how romance transforms into something more than the usual hugs and kisses. Sometimes, it is not strictly eternal love that people look for but simple human connection, and in this film, it was displayed in a way that fully evokes the particular emptiness that asks for it and the gentle emotional force that attempts to fill it up. 
The film's premise, about two lost souls and their sudden romantic spark after finding out that their respective better halves are cheating on them, is a subtle observation about the pain of extramarital affairs. And with Wong Kar-wai's choice of not showing the two characters' cheating husband and wife's faces, the film takes on a more absolute form. They know that they wouldn't be together for a long time, but they are aware of the feelings that will permeate across time years after they part ways. And in this brief time that they share together, how comforting it is to feel that all of it shall last forever. 
But wait, how about their marriages? Isn't this a form of cheating as well? Well, maybe that is the case, but Wong Kar-wai highlights the fact (through precise cinematographic compositions and haunting musical score) that their romance is in no way a form of transgression; hell, it's not even romantic revenge per se. Instead, it is quite simply because of human impulse, of our tendencies to look for a hand to hold on to in our perennial struggle to find answers to our questions, and of our adherence to the concept of love no matter the emotional price we may subsequently pay. We are born to love, but hell, we are also born to be hurt; "In the Mood for Love" dwells somewhere in the middle. 
Stars Tony Leung Chiu-Wai (playing Mr. Chow) and Maggie Cheung (playing Mrs. Chan) are evidently perfect in their roles. In the film's earlier moments, their body language perfectly conveys their utter indifference to one another. But as the film progresses, especially at the moment when they both realize that the love they have found is something that cannot be cherished for a longer time (their husband and wife are merely on a business trip in Japan, presumably consummating their own secret love), their faces show something that suggests contemplative sadness. They hate to see each other go but they nonetheless accept it. They both hate to cut their romance short but they know that it is wrong to prolong it even more. They both know that they need each other but they just can't continue on doing so. And in one of the film's most powerful scenes, we see how they rehearse their final farewells and the subsequent pain that comes along with it. Saying goodbye is indeed a hard thing to do especially if the one you're uttering it to is the final person you'll ever wish to be on its receiving end. 
It is from this complex set-up that I was able to see through Wong Kar-wai's emotional maturity as a filmmaker. He is quite aware of the fact that human connection always arises from the most unexpected of situations and that love is a mercurial aspect of life that's easy to feel yet slides so easily from the palm of the hands. He is also quite articulate about the sheer transience of time and its role in reminding us that moments may fade but feelings just wouldn't. "In the Mood for Love", an artful amalgamation of style and substance, is a symphonic film about the unpredictability of love, the persistence of memory, and the gentle, bittersweet pain of harboring a beautiful secret. Welcome to my film-watching consciousness, Mr. Wong Kar-wai.


No comments:

Post a Comment

1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Ivan6655321's Schneider 1001 movies widget