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Classic Review: In the Mood for Love

In the Mood for Love


There are great romances in film, and some of them are about how two people fall in love and stay together. But sometimes in the end, the two characters that the viewer cheers for and love don't wind up in the perfect situation. Unrequited love is a fact of life, and some of the greatest films revolve around them. The film "In the Mood for Love" is one of those masterpieces.

"In the Mood for Love" was about two people named Su Li-Zhen and Chow Mo-wan who suspect that their spouses are having an affair. The two form a relationship with each other, but in the end they wind up alone. It was directed by Wong Kar-Wai in 2000.

The film uses off screen presence by never showing the faces of the spouses. The viewer is never allowed to see what these people look like, or much of their relationships. Their presence is felt throughout the film even though the viewer never sees them. By not having them be the focus of the attention, it lets the viewers see the connections between Li-Zhen and Chow. Instead of focusing on the negative relationships, the viewer instead is forced to see the new relationship and decide if these people should be together. Unlike other films, the movie does not force the viewer to think the two people should leave their spouses for each other.

The film implements slow motion effects and step-printing to display the longing and the loneliness of the main characters. A scene that demonstrates this is when Li-Zhen goes to get food from a restaurant and Chow is leaving. The two cross paths at one point, but they continue walking. The scenes are set up as a waltz because of the music that was used in the scene. The music was a motif because it was repeated in the film and it showed the dance that these two characters were going through. They were connecting emotionally but they were unable to connect physically. The two never have a physical affair with one another because they didn’t want to be like their spouses. The scene expresses the torments and the love that these two characters have, but they could not act upon it. The recurring scenes put the loneliness that these two characters have at the forefront as well. The two never stop to talk to each other in the scenes, and they are always alone. Even though they love each other, they are separated by the norms of their culture. They can’t be with each other because people would start to talk about their relationship. They wanted to be together even though they knew that it is the wrong thing to do. Along with the waltz motif, the other sound motif that was used in the film was the Latin-themed song by Nat King Cole. The scenes are bereft of diegetic sound and only the music is heard. It makes the viewer focus on the visuals and the music. The repetition of the scenes shows the change that these characters are exhibiting and they will always be apart from one another.

At the end of the film, the two main characters do not end up with each other. This to me shows how these characters were just like their spouses. Chow and Li-Zhen act out the ways that their spouses got together to try to figure out why they did it, and they fall in love with each other because of it. Even though they don’t have a physical connection, they are still having an emotional affair from their spouses. At this time in Chinese culture, divorce was considered taboo and they couldn’t leave their spouses. Society kept them from being together, and they ended up alone. They might have been forced because of their spouses’ absence, but they still failed at being a husband and wife.

I thought that the chemistry between the actors was fantastic. Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung have very expressive features and they used their body language to show the emotions of the characters. The viewer was able to connect with them because of their expressiveness and their relationship. It might have been a slow moving relationship, but it allowed the viewer to experience what these characters were going through and their frustrations.

Wong Kar-Wai's direction though was top notch. He controlled the mise-en-scene perfectly and he made the audience feel a wide range of emotions from the two main characters. Laughter, joy, heartache and sorrow are all over the film, and the beautiful cinematography and set designs capture all the emotion that was shown. It isn't a love story for a date night, but it is a love story that relates to real life.