Wong Kar Wai’s ‘In the Mood for Love’ (2000) brings an entirely different perspective to the melodrama film genre. The story is focused upon two spouses of different married couples who move into apartment homes adjacent to each other at the same time. Mr. Chow (Tony Leung), the husband of one couple, and the wife of the other couple Mrs. Chan (Maggie Cheung), form a friendship bond whilst both their spouses are away on multiple business trips. When the skepticism of their spouses taking reoccurring business trips at the same time surfaced into both their spouses having an affair with one another, Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan’s bond strengthened even more through the heart break of infidelity. However, the social judgments and vast differences of their separate lives forced them to keep their undeniable love for one another a secret.
Director Wong Kar Wai frames nearly each scene within corridors, windows and harsh shadows to signify the role of the observer verses the observed, relaying the pressuring and conflicting emotion without the characters even having to speak.
The auteur, Wong Kar Wai, creates film techniques to also symbolize his upbringing during the second wave of identity crisis between Hong Kong and the rest of China in the late 70’s. Wong Kar Wai’s upbringing in Shanghai and his experience witnessing the torn relationship between Hong Kong’s westernized culture and traditional Chinese culture can be metaphorically recognized within ‘In the Mood for Love’. Hong Kong is seen as apart of China, but it is forever engrained in Chinese traditional culture that Hong Kong is recognized as ‘the other’, distanced with their western influenced cultural norms, morals, religion, and social behavior.
We are unable to grasp how much time has passed between each scene, which allows the details within each scene speak for themselves without the character’s speaking. In fact, the metaphorical properties of emotion relayed within each scene tell the story more so than the script of the characters.
Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan’s undeniable romantic connection was kept secret due to the high risk of being ‘the other’ to their vastly different social worlds. The act of breaching out of one’s engrained society naturally separated them because it immediately conflicted with their cultural traditions, expected social behaviors and morals. The fear of being the one observed rather being the observer in society is closely connected with the judgment and rejection automatically linked to ‘the other’ from the moment one crosses the border of their revered cultural practices and morals. How could they continue living in a secret and how could they move on without each other?
In the Mood for Love
director WONG KAR-WAI
director of photography CHRISTOPHER DOYLE, MARK LEE PING BIN, KWAN PUN LEUNG
cast TONY LEUNG CHIU-WAI, MAGGIE CHEUNG, PING LAM SIU and TUNG CHO
Text by Ellen Grace
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