Wong Kar Wai As A Metaphor Of Love Part 2: ‘In The Mood For Love’

Continuing the acquaintance with Wong Kar Wai works, BFJ moves to early sixties Hong Kong in order to understand how true love is born and why eastern refined restraint is more attractive than western freedom of feelings.
 Chow Mo-wan:  What would you have been like if not married?
Su Li-zhen Chan: Probably a little happier.

The second film of Kar Wai’s love trilogy, “In the Mood for Love”, is devoted to marriage and love, but the director doesn’t equate these concepts. Characters either roved from “Days of Being Wild” (they have same names: Su Li-zhen, in marriage – Ms. Chan and Chow Mo-wan –Mr. Chow; both characters are played by the same actors as in the first film), or just vaguely resembled them, now have got families. As if to underscore all the ephemeral nature of marriage concept, Kar Wai never shows us the faces of the spouses together – only Chow and Su once. They are like abandoned other halves that have to be alone for a long time while their partners are on business trips.

“You notice things if you pay attention.” Kar Wai definitely notices every little detail. In his film it seems like the very universe is a continuation of characters’ relations. Starting from white captions on a scarlet background i.e. culmination smoothed by white color or quotes of the past being white on black as eternal, unchanging and impartial wisdom. The “In the Mood for Love” palette is gold and red as are the colours of love. This is not vulgar or loud love, but smoothed by precious light that makes every frame looks like a work of art.

To the sounds of the wonderful Yumeji’s Theme (created by Shigeru Umebayashi) Chow and Su night after night intersect at a diner, where each of them is forced to be alone. Thus months pass until characters don’t start noticing each other: at first, newspapers and books then the situation with a gift to the significant other. But this companionship regardless of the reason is always a dialogue of two educated and intelligent people. Traditions, rules and decorum are significant in eastern world, but where in the life of ordinary man aren’t they relevant? Kar Wai knows the answer and they play large role in the story: from Mr. Chow’s ironed shirts to constant regarding phrases. Elaborately polite and erudition of characters, their inner world includes getting on the right side of neighbours, spectators and pulling themselves together. In attempt to find out the truth about their spouses they start a series of innocent meetings that are full conversations and trying to understand how it all started with their infidelity. However, this understanding does not bring them what they desire. And from questions “What do you think they are doing at that moment?” they moves to dialogues “Why did you call me at the office today? – I had nothing to do. I wanted to hear your voice.”


But the heroes rightly never trivialize their relationship by physical acts. Instead they long for, keeping long hours and keeping silent in their separate world of Room 2046. Because only with their true soulmate can people be speechless, comfortable and safe. Love is not a thing of saying but feeling. To feel here and now, because time -just like the heart- skips a beat at such moments. and with them the heroes stand still dissolving into the twilight streets or rooms, in their own sad sight.

Repetition of similar scenes complete the circle, where familiar actions and situations are almost rituals, having deep meaning for characters in the film. There are the elegant dresses of Su, when she goes for noodles (loneliness makes such moments of life significant), and stops for the purpose of waiting out the rain (that like in “Days of Being Wild” shares the heart-heaviness of heroes). The understanding that feeling has crept quietly to them, although both “thought they could control themselves” was under this rain.

Chow Mo-wan: It’s me. If there’s an extra ticket… would you go with me?

Su Li-zhen Chan: It’s me. If there’s an extra ticket… would you go with me?

Ultimately, the futility of desire puts everything in its place – the characters ennobled by the feelings experienced split up. But they do not stay in mad grief: Ms. Chan will find the meaning of life in her child; Mr. Chow will move to Singapore and devote himself to work. But both will remember that very true but forbidden feeling.

And while Su Li-zhen was “looking through a dusty window pane” coming back to the place where she found her soulmate, Chow Mo-wan was whispering his mystery to an outlying temple, leaving this secret forever. But this is the next story.

in the mood for love. farewell rehearsal is bitter as well as its reality

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In The Mood for Love,
Ekaterina Petrakova
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