Set in front of the conservative backdrop of 1960's Hong Kong, Wong Kar Wai's In the Mood for Love tells the intimate tale of two people who, by fate, seem to land themselves in each other's company due to the common bond of the absence of their spouses. The plot of the film is by no means anything original, but it is deeply accentuated by the style in which the film is shot. With unconventional camera angles, an inconsistent musical score, and deep, luscious colors, In the Mood for Love brings a seemingly real perspective to a very personal story.
Mr. Chow (Tony Leung) and Mrs. Chang (Maggie Cheung) coincidentally, move in to their small neighboring Hong Kong flats on the same day. Mr. Chow, a newspaper editor with an unseen, but presumably traveling, wife, and Mrs. Chang, a secretary, also with an unseen business executive husband. The two often find their paths crossing as they frequent the same streets, restaurants, and noodle shop. It is when they discover that their spouses are having an affair that they begin to see each other. Unlike very fast paced, show-all, American films, the relationship that blossoms between Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chang is not one of immense passion and love, but more of a deeper unsaid understanding. It is the simple gestures such as the conversations, the gazing into one another's eyes, and the holding of hands where the real relationship lies. This could not be clearer when, in a climactic moment of the film, they briefly caress each other's hands in the back of a taxi.
The film is accentuated by the unconventional, but highly innovative camera work throughout. Often times the camera remains stationary while the characters move about, and sometimes out of the frame. It's as if to remind the audience that we are looking through a peep hole rather than through a movie screen, and that there are things that we will not be able to see. Throughout various portions of the film, like the rice cooker scene, for example, you can hear the characters speaking, but you will actually have to visualize what they are doing. The position at which the camera lies throughout the movie is also noteworthy because of the strange angles it is put at, such as under a bed, over a person's shoulder, through metal grating, and in general, low to the ground. It seems that Wong Kar Wai is telling us "no, that's too easy. You need to look at this from a more difficult position, as if you were eavesdropping on these very private moments…"
The rich colors and costumes of the film play a very large part in how the story is told as well. In the first scene, at the appearance of Mrs. Chan and her very colorful dress, the audience is immediately drawn to her and continues to watch her throughout the rest of the film. From then on each dress, one right after the other, begins to astonish the viewer with its lush colors and interesting patterns. This immediately sets Mrs. Chan apart from any other character, especially Mr. Chow, who dresses in relatively the same attire every day, creating a very physical contrast between two characters who are emotionally similar. Not only does the costuming add emphasis to the film, but the lighting of most of the scenes adds another layer onto they already thick stylized coat of the film. Much of the film takes place on the very foreign and almost enigmatic streets of Hong Kong, usually during the night, and we are provided with not quite enough illumination to see everything perfectly. This adds a heightened level of mystery throughout the entire film, especially in the first half, before the characters really meet. The warm colors, in a sense, add quite a bit to the slow pacing of the film. These are not very cold, vivid, or fast colors, but rather ones that let the scenes take their time, in a place where conversations are not hurried and friendly games with neighbors last into the late hours of the night. The editing also does its part to slow down the movie,...