By Michael Kalafatis (Stoke on Trent)
Directed by Wong Kar-Wai. Starring Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung.
In the mood of love opens with a quote “It is a restless moment. She has kept her head lowered… to give him a chance to come closer. But he could not, for lack of courage. She turns and walks away.” Which creates the right ambience for the tragic tale that will follow.
Two neighbours Mr. Chow (Tony Leung) and Mrs. Chan (Maggie Cheung) suspects that their respectively spouses have an extramarital affairs and agree to have a platonic relationship until they start to develop real emotions for each other. In the Mood of Love takes place in Hong Kong in 1962 and the attention given to that era won’t be very obvious to a western viewer but the absence of television, smart phones and the prominence of the radio makes the film a more realistic depiction of the 1960s.
In the Mood of Love explores the nature of marriage and this is more evident in a chance encounter between Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan:
Mr. Chow: “What a coincidence!”
Mrs. Chan: “Going out?”
Mr. Chow: “I’ll buy some noodles. I’m starving. Hungry? Will you join me? “
Mrs. Chan: ” No, thanks.”
Mr. Chow: “Just off work. You must be very busy.”
Mrs. Chan: “Actually, I’ve been to see a picture.”
Mr. Chow: “Really? How was it? “
Mrs. Chan: “So-so.”
Mr. Chow: “I used to like going to the pictures.”
Mrs. Chan: “You had many hobbies before.”
Mr. Chow: “On your own, you are free to do lots of things. Everything changes when you marry. It must be decided together. Right? I sometimes wonder what I’d be if I hadn’t married. Have you ever thought of that?”
Mrs. Chan: “Maybe happier! I didn’t know married life would be so complicated! When you single, you are only responsible to yourself. Once you are married, doing well on your own is not enough.”
This conversation manages to show just unhappy are Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan in their respective marriage but also manage to bring to the foreground their lonely existence as Mrs. Chan has gone to see a picture by herself and Mr. Chan goes to eat noodles alone. Another motif that is prominent is the disintegration of marriage that once was blissfully but has stagnate and has left a trail of unhappy days that do not seem to pass harmoniously. Wong Kar-Wai never shows us the faces of Mr. Chow or Mrs. Chan spouses, we only see their backs and hear their voices, he has done this because he wanted to show the affect that extramarital affairs can have on both sexes, that is the reason he uses Mr. Chow to show the male side and Mrs. Chan the female side and how both cope with their respective spouses who have illicit love affair.
With the help of his cinematographers Christopher Doyle and Ping Bin Lee, Wong Kar-Wai manages to create a rich palate of colours that reminds us of the 1960s, that is reason the film is engulfed in a vermilion colour which is featured prominently all throughout the film but even though it supposed to symbolise love and passion we see something contrary happening to the main characters who are alone and unloved by their spouses so they start a force relationship that resembles a real marriage but they both know that this relationship is doomed. Other very characteristic technique employed by Kar-Wai to create the right mood for the film is the obsessive use of close ups on Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan facial features and a recurring use of slow motion that conveys the poetic and hypnotic nature of the film. The soundtrack is also a very important aspect in creating the hypnotic ambience of the whole film as it mixes western and eastern music seamlessly.
In the Mood of Love is very preoccupied with specific time frame and locations as it starts in 1962 in Hong Kong, then moves forward to 1963 to Singapore and ends in 1966 in Cambodia. This obsession with certain time and place is the film’s obsession with memory. In memory we always remember more vividly the time and the place which we were happier or saddest, and we create strong emotional attachment with a specific place just like Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan did in the place they used to live as neighbours with just a wall separating them. A place that they see change but with their memories together still residing in them.
I will finish this review with another appropriate quote taken from the film which is about time and memory: “He remembers those vanished years. As though looking through a dusty window pane, the past is something he could see, but not touch. And everything he sees is blurred and indistinct.”