Heralded as Wong Kar Wai’s (Chunking Express) best work, a drift from his dynamic style of filming, the adjoining interiors and the brooding darkness reflect the inner tensions of the two central characters in this inexplicably romantic movie. In the Mood for Love is restrained, subjective, and a serene romantic drama. Discreet in presentation and nebulous in terms of dialogs and story, Kar Wai creates an atmospheric haven—the set designing, scene composition, unusual and vibrant camera shots, and the poignant music establishing the mood of the movie—slow, unsure, and filled with ambiguous love.
The genius of In the Mood for Love also points towards W.K.W.’s pulsating direction of a simple love tale under the theme of infidelity—pure or impure, love or passion. Two tales move simultaneously in this nocturnal drama of love and beyond, presenting one tale uniquely with love and friendship as the highest qualities, whilst the opposing tale, in the background, signifying impurity and lust. In the Mood for Love chronicles two married people in the early 60s of the conservative society in Hong Kong and their march from abandonment and loneliness towards insight and love. Enquiring the scenarios and reenacting the deeds towards infidelity, this unique partnership takes them to their own unadulterated love saga and a tear-jerking climax. The impending doomsday for the honest Chow Mo Wan (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) and the untainted Su Li Zhen/Mrs. Chan (Maggie Cheung), their love was destined for heartbreak.
With a rather methodical and deliberate pace, much occurs through sheer suggestions and the story unfolds through artistic contextualization, spatial depictions, revisiting locations, and the texture of the environment. Wong Kar Wai captures the psychology of these two characters and their conditions—lost in peril, with no reaction, and mere acceptance of their mutable milieu—through the magnetic placements of camera and a remarkably gripping style of filming, emphasizing largely on the two main characters, whist blurring the inciting reasons behind the union of Li Zhen and Mo Wan. The cameras play with the focus—hazing out intriguing bits and parts, yet including their symbolic prominence through the two characters in an arch signature style that grows in mystique and strolls towards Kar Wai’s brilliant zing of handling complicated scenes. The most complex of emotions and feelings appear in the most factual manner—reflecting a direct image of such complexities, with the tension present amidst the air, almost thick and strong to be visible.
The scenes rarely reach the outer world during broad daylight, and only when darkness surrounds Hong Kong, the two find themselves at the lap of the dead city representing their own internal chaos. In conjunction with the theme of secrecy and mystery, Wong Kar Wai brings the best from his production designer William Chang and cinematographer Christopher Doyle in creating an interstellar spatial context, and exploiting the artistically relevant background as well as the foreground—giving a special tone to the movie and inciting a mood of depleted vagueness, a tragic friendship. All of this recreated for this nostalgic love story set in the 60s.
Achieving the zenith of drama through mere suggestive interactions, dashes of roleplaying, and most prominently—the aid of the environment surrounding the two protagonists, the background music (Michael Galasso) adds another booster in hurling this romantic saga into a powerful romantic drama, with less blatant dramatics and more subtlety, surreal in many ways. Yumeji’s theme (Shigeru Umebayashi) shadows the scenes throughout the movie, and the slow motion movements during the sequences of this score heighten the chemistry between Su and Chow—indicating the presence of a spark, yet also proposing the rains devastating any possibility of a sustained flicker. The composition of the scenes melt the presence of these two actors into their characters, where less becomes more—the longing and the apprehension clearly shining on the screen.
A puzzling and masterstroke inclusion, Nat King Cole’s Aquellos Ojos Verdes dons the foreground during the latter stages of the movie giving it a grave feeling where all is lost, in this beautiful love with no assumptions flying in fleets. With musical blends from Japan, China, and America detailing a certain era of the 60s, and the configurations of the sets and settings along with the graphical exhibition within the movie, In the Mood for Love possesses a wealth of artistic splendors used by Wong Kar Wai in telling a modest story of love and friendship.
Stunning in every prospect, Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung Chiu Wai patronize the qualities of Li Zhen and Mo Wan with controlled expressions and meditative actions. As if the outer conflicts represented through the visuals didn’t enhance this profound emotional tale, the two lead actors assume their roles to perfection—with Li Zhen masking the tears behind her love for her lover, and Mo Wan in search for peace and retreat realizing that he could never actualize what both seemed to long for. The performances stand as the highlight of the movie, in a movie encompassing paramount artwork, entrancing camera movements, nostalgic and harmonizing costume designs, and a contemplating and soothing end to a love story, without any end.
In the Mood for Love serves as one spiritually rich show of divinity and untainted love that goes beyond everyday comprehension. Presented in a mesmerizing manner, it tells a tale of beautiful simplicity and is not far off World Cinema’s holy grail in love and romance—one of the greatest platonic stories ever told.