Friday, April 25, 2008

In the mood for Love

This is the first Wong Kar Wai movie that I have watched (except for an abortive attempt at 'Happy Together', where the graphic homosexual love scene in the beginning surprised my expectations of a romantic movie), and it left me very impressed. And though I am a little ashamed to admit - moved.

It is a story of a man and woman living in adjacent quarters who discover that their spouses are having an affair with each other. Jarred with this discovery and loneliness, they try to playact the relationship of the other couple, to understand the relationship, and become attached to each other.

It is a sad and dark movie, exceptional in its technique and appears very ethereal, as both characters look untouchable, going on with their lonely routines. Even when they begin to talk to each other, their conversation is like the conversation in Last year at Marienbad, disjointed and repetitive. In a few places, through repetitive scenes, the fleetingness becomes more pronounced and depressive.

What I loved about the movie is the idea of playacting. The movie tries to put the two characters at superior moral grounds to their spouses - since they are the ones abandoned, and are still trying to stay loyal to their marriages. However, the whole idea of play-acting, meeting in secret, hiding in a room, etc is very sinister, and not as innocent as it appears from looking at both of them. And I eventually was puzzled by this need for repression and the obligation to stay committed to their marriages which were already void. Why would you stay tied to a communion where the other half has flown away, other than to prove a point and appear superior. Which, to me, is more vulgar than following instincts.

The movie is quite full of art, specially supported by its background score. It is artful in the use of different camera angles, a diffusing light, repetition of sequences, and putting together of different shots together to make it appear like one scene (which is one thing I had really liked about Marienbad - I think Wong Kar Wai must have been inspired by the French movie, though I did not come across any mention of this fact)

It was however the last scene of the movie that really made it my favorite and is responsible for the 'moved' bit - when the man goes and buries his secrets in a hole in some ruins of Cambodia. He looks so incredibly lonely and isolated in that scene, and you just feel sorry for all the waste.
I think moral uprightness is highly overrated.

4 comments:

Alok said...

I am intrigued by your last line What do you really mean by it in the context of that last scene?

If people could communicate and express their feelings clearly and if those feelings were readily reciprocated there will no "romance"... it will be such a boring and mundane story. Two beautiful people falling in love, having sex, marrying and living happily ever after. YAWN!!

Missed opportunities, mis(non)-communication, masochism, fatalism, private fantasies and secrets, it is all these which make love stories interesting and Wong Kar-wai has definitely spent a lot of time thinking about these things.

You should check out 2046 too which is its sequel. It is hard to follow.. I saw it four five times when it came a few years ago still couldn't figure out everything but it is really wonderful. One of my favourite films of recent years... I don't know if that argument about moral righteousness applies to this film also... because there is a lot of sex in it but yes again it is sex without love and vice versa which is another convention of extreme romanticism :)

Madhuri said...

Couldn't agree with you more on romanticism. I think without tragedy there is seldom any romance. However, there are many more reasons to chose isolation and loneliness than moral ones. Miscommunication, fatalism, silence are all very poetic - but flimsy moral reasons for choosing a brooding life is foolish. Had anyone less adept at imagery than Wong Kar Wai filmed this theme, it would have looked like a reproduction of some emotional Bollywood drama. Of course, in his rendition, it all seems quite natural. Anyhow, my comment was for life and not movies, movies should stick to their dramatic, erratic self. I mean what would we do if we couldn't exclaim at the foolishness of some cinematic soul!

Alok said...

"flimsy moral reasons" - this never struck me while watching it... :)

btw, have you seen David Lean's Brief Encounter? Your criticism will be more valid for this kind of film... When I first saw it I thought what a conservative and regressive movie (i found it moving too).. how stupid these upper class people are with their phony respectability and respect for such hidebound, anachronistic social institutions like marriage and family and all that regular "progressive" stuff... But I am sure if i see it now, my reaction will be different. Being ethical doesn't just mean following the rules arbitrarily set by other people, like love it also comes from inside. self-negation and taking responsiblity for other people in your life is a very admirable thing too. It is like Kiekegaard's multiple stages of life - at the fist level is the "aesthetic" which is self-centred, do what your heart says etc and then the next stage is ethical and final religious... it is very inspiring actually.. it is all confusing in a short comment, but I will definitely recomment brief encounter if you haven't seen it.

Brian said...

This is one of my favorite films, one that gets better and better on repeat viewings-- where you know the story and can then begin to absorb into the atmosphere. And I find the open ending to be perfect.

The sequel, 2046, isn't as good as In the Mood, but also worth watching. The story and drama isn't as focused.