Not many filmmakers manage to stay at the same level while creating their works, even when they deals with linked stories. Kar Wai’s love trilogy is one of the exceptions. The last film demonstrates how to implement refined eroticism on the screen but not look trite, and how love and speculative fiction are linked up in fact.
Chow Mo Wan: Love is all a matter of timing.
2046 is name of a year, past, hopes, and a room number in small hotel. Chow Mo-Wanle is a freelancer now who lives in hotel, spying for life in a nearby room and writing a novel about the future. Therefore the past does not let him go, and this article is about how in Kar Wai world, the person learns to live with the past and tries to go further.
2046 starts vaguely resembling previous Days of Being Wild and In the Mood for Love: green- turquoise and white capitals on a black background. Black – a color of mourning – is a dominant tone of this maestro masterpiece; it alludes to bitterness, sorrow and pain suffered by the heroes. As well as the fate reminders of the past with the help of melody, palette or names: the 2046 room number, Lulu and her appearance under the familiar Xavier Cugat – Perfidia or mysterious spider Su Li-zhen. She sinks into the heart of the protagonist, maybe due to his last love but may be because of the secret inside (he tells her “Take care. Maybe one day you’ll escape your past. If you do, look for me.”) Their pairing is a farewell to the pristine Su Li-zhen from “In the Mood for Love”: empty street and woman shadow figure near the wall. But this time he kisses her: life is too short and merciless for losing such feasibility. Or maybe it’s just another attempt to regain lost memories?
“He thought he was writing about the future but in fact he was writing about the past. In his book a mysterious train went from time to time to 2046, and everyone who sat on him tried to regain their lost past …”
Theme of the past is presides in 2046. “When you don’t take “no” for an answer, there is still a chance you’ll get what you want.” Chow Mo-Wan is walking through his memories trying to rethink the lived experience. He writes a novel in which his character searches for his love in the distant year 2046. He’s lost in this mysterious train, in loneliness, in his attempt to catch the one that got away, but life goes further, and he meets new people, new women.
The daughter of hotel’s owner is a dreamy young lady in love with Japanese which is not welcomed by her father. Their story is a great feeling ideal that was kept by them through six years of separation from each other and many obstacles. This is romance in a history of letters and telephone calls – the only happy story in this film bringing hope.
But when the “Siboney” Connie Francis starts and the very embodiment of the goddess enters the shot, everyone forgets about good fortune of the previous character. Bai Lingis almost the female incarnation of protagonist – full of freedom and a bit of a bourgeoisie, educated and flirty. Kar Wai has already noticed the mystery of acquaintance in Days of Being Wild but here he passes on. His Chow Mo-Wan is not just a young and assertive guy but experienced and skillful seducer: it’s hard to find more intimate and intent gift for woman (stockings) as well as a situation for its presenting. All this is a ritual in which both protagonists are aware of their roles and goals. If previous Kar Wai works told about first love, close relations as a resistance to sense of loneliness, here he talks about desire and pleasure i.e. lust. Eachshotof2046isemphatically erotic. There are Chow Mo-Wan gifts, and slaps follow next to them (that’s how one deals with passion when does not want to squander it in one night). There also is his head resting on Bai Ling’s shoulder while his arm hand slowly falls on her knee in a taxi (like In the Mood for Love scene reflection distorted by passion). There are ambiguous and seductive dialogues:
Bai Ling: I don’t get it. Were does all that fun get you? If you find the right person, why waste time on the others?
Chow Mo Wan: If I find the right person? A man like me has nothing much except free time. That’s why I need company.
Bai Ling: So people are just time fillers to you?
Chow Mo Wan: I wouldn’t say that. Other people can borrow my time to.
Bai Ling: And tonight? Are you borrowing me, or am I borrowing you?
Chow Mo Wan: No difference. Maybe I borrowed you earlier, now you’re borrowing me.
Bai Ling: Ridiculous.
As usual Kar Wai is attentive to details and time: 2046 is half an hour longer than his previous films (to recover and cure the heart take more time than to fall in love). Characters get closer on the 24th of December, at Christmas Eve – the time when the need for warmth increases. This is the time of former lovers’ meetings and forgetting the past by alcohol. Liquids have some mystique meaning in Kar Wai films. There’s rain and drinks: youth in Days of Being Wild performed by the can of Coke, In the Mood for Love feelings of restraint shown through the glass of water, and bitterness of 2046 as alcohol. And the narrator notes the year of actions consistently, abstractly and unemotionally like the very time actually is.
Historically Bai Lingand Chow Mo Wan relationships do not have happy endings. It couldn’t be while from the very beginning there were those ten dollars of excuse for each of them – an attempt not to let the person enter into your own world. And after all these years to say they love to drink together is much easier than say they were really close. Such relationships are escapes from feelings when the hearts of both has been broken once.
Chow Mo Wan: Do you remember you asked me if there was anything I wouldn’t lend? I’ve given it a lot of thought and now I know there is one thing I’ll never lend to anyone.
2046 is a message of unfulfilled love repeated tirelessly under the melodies of Peer Raben “Dark Chariot” and Secret Garden “Adagio”; waiting of ten, one hundred and one thousand hours; reflection of lovers in novels and heart; farewell to the past and endless way to the future (because the very time is endless).