When I write these film analyses, I usually start by watching the film with a notepad, writing down all the things I think are interesting. When I started watching Wong Kar-wai’s ‘In the Mood for Love’, the first thing I wrote was: meaning that every single shot feature characters not only framed by the rectangle of the film itself but by smaller internal shapes as well. Now this is a visual technique that film makers have used for decades my favourite example is the great last shot in John Ford’s masterpiece, “The Searchers.” But seldom is it used so ubiquitously. As the film went on, I had to cross out 5 from my little note and change it to 6, 7, 9. It wasn’t until minute 12 that I saw the first shot without some foreground obstruction. This shot, which crucially doesn’t feature either of the two main characters… …but wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. ‘In the Mood for Love’ is the story of two married couples who happen to rent rooms in the adjacent homes of older couples in 1960’s Hong Kong. the film focuses on the husband of one couple, Mr. Chau and the wife of the other, Mrs. Chan as they both gradually discover that their spouses are cheating on them with each other and then, how those two innocent victims of infidelity come together to deal with the pain of that the film manages to be unsentimental with its subject matter while couching the events in sumptuous, painterly cinematography. The narrative skips and jumps forward through time at an erratic speed as one might recall the story in memory and the viewer is often left entirely confused as to how much time has passed between scenes. This prompts a strong engagement with the film, a need to pay attention but it also reflects how the film was made. There was little more than an outline when Wong Kar-Wai and his crew began filming a process that took a long 15 months in which the script and the individual scenes were written on the fly by the director and the actors together, which is surprising because watching the film you can’t help but feel that you’re in the hands of somebody with complete control. Visually and emotionally, ‘In the Mood for Love’ is fully consistent. The film is so self-contained that it only features a handful of locations each filmed from the same angle so that you experience a kind of circular effect of returning again and again to the same things This technique, far from feeling sluggish or repetitive instead isolates against fixed backgrounds, the things that actually are changing in the film – the inner lives of the two leads. And for the most part, these inner lives are explored wordlessly. The real action of this movie is in postures, glances and touches and by restricting the language, Wong Kar-wai echoes the restriction of action that plagues Mr. Chau and Mrs. Chan in 1960’s Hong Kong where they are under constant threat of gossip, a kind of surveillance from their landlords and the community at large. This is one reason why everything is doubly framed. By placing objects in the foreground the director enhances the feeling that the characters have, of being observed, not to mention our own feelings of being observers. Observed and observing, seen and being seen, what we desire from others, what others desire from us – these are major themes of ‘In the Mood for Love’. I think the most extraordinary element of this film is what’s introduced just after the two main characters admit to each other: that their spouses are cheating. Instead of confronting the situation head on, their primary goal becomes to understand exactly how it happened. So we get this incredible scene where they re-enact the seduction of their spouses in which each attempt to embody the spouse of the other while being coached by the other on what they think the spouse really would, or wouldn’t do. This makes for a really complex, but also kind of perverse interplay. Though the film aggressively focuses on only Mr. Chau and Mrs. Chan to the point of never even showing the faces of their spouses, we’re always aware that four people, not two, are involved here. But it’s not four real people, it’s two people and two phantoms. Think of what’s being asked of Chau and Chan in the seduction scene. In the guise of understanding what happened, each victim attempts to seduce their own spouse in the form of the other’s spouse. A task that has to be doomed from the start because the fact of the affair itself means that neither Chau nor Chan can any longer illicit that kind of desire that they’re trying to recreate You could describe this course of action as masochistic, and Wong Kar-wai lets us feel this by not making it obvious when Mr. Chau or Mrs. Chan are being themselves or being each other’s spouses. Often we’re a minute into the scene and interpreting it one way, before the reality or perhaps the unreality of the moment hits us, like a gut punch. But because each player is constantly coaching the other, they’re able to construct a fantasy in which they control their own betrayal. And by never consummating their own budding love for each other, Mr. Chau and Mrs. Chan can infinitely delay the moment in which they have to see things as they really are. They can stay in their fantasy. It’s a tragic and twisted state of affairs, and Wong Kar-wai has said that if Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung weren’t such beautiful actors the darkness at the centre of their characters and their fantasy would be obvious. Of course, they can’t keep it up forever, and in the scene where Mr. Chau finally admits his love for Mrs. Chan most of the fantasy comes crumbling down. As he says they are like their spouses, which means that the thing they’ve been refusing to see, their own lack that they’ve ceased to be an object of love for their loved one rushes into consciousness, like a wave. And yet still, they don’t act on it. They can only let the brutal truth in so much. In order to survive, in order to move forward, Mr. Chau and Mrs. Chan doom themselves to missed connections. This is why at the end, the film jumps forward to see them just missing each other twice. Just missing each other, the mere possibility of a connection, not the connection itself is what sustains them now. Everybody lives within fantasy, within frames. Sometimes the frames are made by us, sometimes they’re made by others. Sometimes we need to believe that those made by us are made by others. But whatever the case, there’s no way out of the frame. When fantasies rupture or crack or breakdown completely, that’s trauma, like living temporarily in a storm. Wong Kar-wai’s ‘In the Mood for Love’ is a gorgeous, quiet and painful exploration of what happens when the fantasy you create for yourself is a perverse one, when it only serves to keep you from the pain that it was created to avoid. And, the reason the film is so heartbreaking is because this kind of perversity is really quite common to all of us. Hey everybody, thank you so much for watching I hope you enjoyed it, God, I love this movie. 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