‘In The Mood For Love’, directed by Wong Kar-wai and released in 2000, is a sublimely beautiful film. Each shot is carefully considered, and the set and costumes are well thought out and very detailed. The film is set in the past, during the sixties in Hong Kong, and is very much embroiled in nostalgia. At times I find myself very suspicious of this film, as I am with any film that shows suffering in a beautiful way. I don’t agree that suffering is a beautiful thing, and I don’t like it when a film or story portrays suffering in a romanticised way. Especially because it always the woman who seems to get the rough end of the stick. After seeing the film a couple of times though, I took better notice of a poem shown at the end of the movie.

“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.”

It suggests that everything we saw in the film is how the male protagonist remembers it, not necessarily how it actually happened. And so for this reason everything shown is an idealized version, which is why everything looks so wonderful. I think when viewed in this way the film changes from just being a beautiful film, to being an exercise in nostalgia.

There are a few of these interludes throughout the film. Time seems to move differently, and a mood is created that then is echoed in the rest of the film.

 

The lighting in this segment is limited, which creates opportunities for a play between shadow and light. Particularly in terms of the characters’ figures. Figures emerge and enter the dark, and a moody atmosphere is set up. In certain parts, Su Li-zhen’s body becomes a dark shape so that the curves of her body can be seen. The tight fitting of her dress helps this, a dress that is both conservative (high neck-line, covered) and risky (shows off her body). The lighting is also what makes me see this as a memory, it is dark, and slight foggy looking. It does not have the clarity of a real event.

The music is obviously a very important part of this scene. The pizzicato that starts the piece, and continues as backing for the violin soloist, sounds like an anxious heart beat, a heart beat affected by love or sexual desire. In any case, it does produce an anxious or restless mood. Over this a violin is played. It is quite passionate, somewhat wild, and emotionally stirring. It seems as though you could be swept away in the peaks and falls of the song. A song that appears to be the external release of the feelings within the two mains.

Movement here seems to be slowed down, which serve to make it more intoxicating. A particularly important part of the movement is the sway of the female character, Su Li-zhen’s, hips, which increases the sexual tension. The noodle flask, and one of the lamps above the street stall evoke this movement of Li-zhen’s hips. This movement is done in time with the music, which ties it all together in a deeply satisfying way.

There are also visual suggestions that too help with the overall sexuality of the sequence. The male character, Chow Mo-wan, is seen eating, which is a very sensual theme and action. At the end when the two pass each other they are in close proximity in a small space so Su Li-zhen presses herself to the wall. These little details once again help to set the mood and the tension between the two characters.

Plus the movie features the Brian Ferry song, ‘I’m In The Mood For Love’, which continues my theory that any movie with his music in it is a good film. Okay… well this one and ‘Lost In Translation”. Haha, he is such fun!

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