Peaceful Stoner’s review published on Letterboxd:
Monotony is a drug. We become addicted to it. Life is swell, comfortable and satisfactory and the monotony of it is unnoticeable until the elixir of our lives, Love, wanes away. Love is the only sustaining force which keeps people moving forward in their lives and makes them see only those things which are beautiful and blossoming, even though it is the same day over and over all the while. When life becomes deprived of love monotony begins to show its side effects. It raises its ugly head and makes us question the emptiness in life. What was it all worth for in the end? People put up with a job they detest, tolerate people they dislike, live in a modest place, lose their freedom, give up ambitions and dreams and most importantly dedicate their living to nurture the sole meaning of life, love. If love desserts us then a monotonous life becomes a poison and a slow one at that. It becomes more potent with time and kills us by each passing day through its nothingness.
Wong Kar Wai’s In the Mood for Love was relatable to me on so many levels. It is not an entertaining film by any means and if it were it would have been betraying the subject matter which is life in all its sorry state of stagnation. It is the riveting story of two people, who coincidentally find their lives to be strikingly similar in the way they have welled up the frustrations in their work life, the betrayal of their loved ones and their natural interests. They are simply made for each other but were not destined to find each other at the right time. Most importantly both are equally needy of a shoulder to rest upon, to shed their tears and a true, ever binding love to rest their lives upon.
Wong Kar Wai’s choices in this film are perfect and act as striking devices for the viewer to reflect upon the tedious mundaneness of the lives of Mrs. Chan and Mr.Chow. There is just one musical track used in the entire film. The same melancholic track plays in almost the same circumstances again and again making us wonder how it would be to live the same routine again and again every next day and when there is nothing new or promising to look forward to in the future. It made me wonder how, when we lose our loved ones not of death but of betrayal, food turns flavorless and just becomes a insipid means to keep us alive. The lighting is always gloomy. There is never a shot which is showered in bright flashiness. It is as sombre as the lives it projects. The supporting roles of Mr. Ho and Ah Ping are not just in the film for the sake of being there. They are purposefully shaped to be morally opposite to Mrs.Chan and Chow and unnoticeably affect their lives and decisions. They are people who the leads observe from close quarters and spend most of their days with. Their actions and lives combined with those of her husband and his wife ironically spike their strong conscience of doing the right thing and living by the way of the world. They dislike the things they see. They never intended, wanted, or believed they could fall in love with each other and do the same mistake which had brought the downfall of their lives. But Love is one twisted bugger. She has the power to change and rebuild even the staunchest beliefs according to her will. They do the one thing which they dread more than even the betrayal of their loved ones. They slowly but surely fall in love with each other.
The film is seeped with immensely beautiful symbolism. There is a scene where Mr.Ho says he is tired of his new tie as it is too flashy and would stick with the old one. This I thought was Wai’s way of alluding that the man was rueing his decision of not being loyal to the life he was gifted with and giving in to the temptation of having an affair. We are also never shown the faces of Mr.Chan and Mrs.Chow, only their backs which symbolizes how they have turned their backs on the people who trusted them and believed them with their lives. And the way Chow and Mrs.Chan get prepared for the real shock by role playing is also a reflection of the state of their lives and how they have become attuned to the lack of happiness, how helpless and powerless they remain in their lives and their hollow future. One such instance when they prepare for their separation just wringed my heart so badly and I was left teary eyed. It was as poetically tenebrous as it was heart breaking.
The ending of the film is a true testament to their righteousness. They decide to stand by their morals no matter how painful their future may be because of that or how much happiness they are bound to lose out on. It could also be the case of the world not allowing them to be together or neither of them wanting or willing to be the first to go all out and express how essential they were to each other’s happiness. They could have if they wanted to but they consciously choose not to.
Mrs.Chan and Chow decide to bury their expectations and their memories of each other deep inside their minds and cover it with the true love they share. With time it will grow into a tree of unsatisfactory life and forever they would be under its shade, as they reminisce their time with each other and lament their decision to separate. But they would be contented and happy because they would forever live under the shade of their memories of each other and would derive strength and belief from the fact that in spite of all of life’s misgivings they stayed true to their character, conscience and to their loved ones.
Love is never a thing to be searched for and found. It just happens. We can only pray and hope that it finds us at the right time and stays with us for a lifetime.