Frames Within Frames: The Many Moods Of Wong Kar Wai's Sublime Classic, 'In The Mood For Love'!

By Aditi Patwardhan. Posted on June 02, 2016

Wong Kar Wai's In the Mood for Love is one of my favourite movies. Besides being an immensely immersive and experiential film, it is also a masterclass in filmmaking. Shot exquisitely - every frame of the film, a visual treat - the film flows before us like a poem being recited. Everything about this film is beautiful - the excellent performances by Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Christopher Doyle’s cinematography with its perfect framing, color themes and lighting, the recurring melodies in the background score and the director’s treatment of the story.

However, there's always more to explore in a film, especially when one looks at it from the filmmakers' point of view. This video essay we found provides an interesting insight into the film by analyzing the framing & composition, the characterization and the abstract darkness that this romance feeds on.

The video begins with this statement, which is a keen observation: "5 minutes into the film and every shot is a frame within a frame." Each frame, as Wong Kar Wai constructs it, contains an internal smaller shape that frames the characters within the rectangular frame of the camera. This is often used as a cinematic technique by numerous directors, but if you look closely, In the Mood for Love uses this quite ubiquitously.

Wong Kar Wai has created the universe for his two protagonists in a laid back suburb of the 1960's Hong Kong. The fact that the two are married, but not to each other is something that would invite a lot of attention, if they were seen hanging out together. Also, being tenants in closely knit households ensures that their landlords & ladies take extra interest in their lives. The objects framing the two give a feeling that they're constantly being observed by someone. Also, in doing that, it puts the viewer in the position of observer - someone prying on the very secret, intimate moments shared by these two.

The essayist later also delves into the perversity and darkness that's at the heart of this love story. There's a huge sense of unfulfillment and futility to this romance. When they find out that their spouses are cheating on them with each other, the two try to rationalize the whole affair by understanding how this must have happened. We see them role-playing, torturously; playing each other's spouses. Wong Kar Wai keeps it ambiguous to the level, where we often aren't able to tell whether they're being themselves or are role-playing.

There's no romance - there's a mere possibility, a desire, all under strict supervision. They're so determined to not be like their spouses that romance never blossoms between them the way it could. When Mr Chow finally confesses to having fallen in love, the world they've created comes crumbling down and the two separate.

The beauty of this film lies in its moments. The gestures, the postures, the glances and the slight touches. We're now so used to the blunt & overt romance in our films that the realisation that even a slight brushing of shoulders in the corridor, a gentle touch of fingers and a glimpse across the room can give you goosebumps, comes almost as a surprise. That's the beauty of this film- it convinces us that the importance of these simple moments is never lost. They're magical no matter what!

Watch the video here and also check other other lovely videos by Nerdwriter1 on YouTube.


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