Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love artfully shows the lives of two people, Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan, dealing with the fact that their respective spouses are unfaithful and, in doing so, create a romance of their own. Fidelity and infidelity, appropriateness and impropriety, and romanticism and realism are all contrasted in this movie.
Both Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan are played by incredibly attractive actors, Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung, and almost every shot in the movie accentuates this. Mrs. Chan goes through several stunningly tailored cheongsam dresses that show off her remarkable figure and Mr. Chow looks like the personification of masculinity in his suits.
The saturated color of the shots, along with the lighting and framing of the actors, only add to the sensuality of the film. The heightened sexuality of scenes with these two main characters shot in slow motion to a non-diagetic song which gives them an almost dream-like quality. These are starkly contrasted to multiple scenes in the pouring rain or when the characters are eating dinner together that bring the movie back to more realistic terms when that dreamlike sense is broken. The camera returning to a more natural shot, paired with the silence, juxtapose other moments in the film.
Even though their spouses are unfaithful, Chow and Chan are still concerned with propriety. They don’t want to be seen spending too much time together, even if they are simply collaborating for Chow’s work. They even go so far as to camp out in a room together because Mrs. Chan does not want to give the wrong impression This is a direct contrast to their partners, shown by the fact that Mr. Chan doesn’t even bother to buy two different handbags for his wife and his lover, who are neighbors.
The songs show the more ambiguous or gray elements of relationships. One of these songs, sung in Spanish, repeats the phrase “quizás, quizás, quizás” which is translated to mean “perhaps.” Throughout the movie, Chow and Chan explore the possibilities of how their spouses began their affair, perhaps this is how their spouses got together; as well as the possibilities in their relationship, perhaps this will when their relationship finally blossoms. These scenes can either be the turning point when a relationship becomes something more or when the characters pull away for the sake of propriety. The whole question of “perhaps” resonates throughout all of their interactions.
Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love shows the journey of two characters dealing with unfaithful relationships. These relationships are defined by their ambiguity, shown through music and the characters’ own reluctance to consummate any form of a relationship. They are further defined by the contrast between the heights of romance and the harshness of reality. The technical elements of the film served to show and reinforce these themes in the relationships.