The Flowery Years
Feelings can creep up just like that. I thought I was in control.
I once took jurisprudence class on emotions. It was a law school course that I took as an undergraduate. I was 19 and the rest of the class was mid 20s to adults with families and children. Needless to say I was out of my (emotional) depth (still am). I mainly kept to myself despite the course being heavily discussion based. I could read all I wanted but I simply lacked the breadth of emotional experience the rest of had. Anything I had experienced, they had too and then some. But the one time I really contributed (and it was probably too much) was the class on love and passion. I hadn’t had some revelatory romance that had taught me a great deal about love but the opposite. When it came to love, we were all fish out of water, aimlessly trying to figure out this overbearing force that consumes both those inside of and seeking it. We were lost and came to very little conclusion but I guess that is just the wonder of it.
Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love is not a film that, in my opinion, provides any clarity on love. It is consistently heralded as an essential work on romance but I would argue it resonates precisely because it doesn't pretend to know what it doesn’t, what none of us do. Wong sinks the film deep in the brutality of love. The film is drenched in the brutal experience on unrequited love, both in the form of cheating and rejection. Su and Chow have love for two but can pursue none, rejected by their spouses but unable to have each other. Obfuscation is a constant motif throughout the film. Obfuscated feelings for each other from both the leads and their spouses, whose faces are obfuscated throughout the film. The thriving narrow halls and cut out windows of Hong Kong frequently obfuscate the full vision of what the viewer desires, as do the underexposed, seemingly lit by candle fire night shots of our two leads together. The snapshot structure, throwing us from one time to another, before we feel we’ve had full clarity but in reality we’ve been given all we need to know. Frequently this obfuscation is discussed as manifestation of the concealed intentions of our characters and this is clearly true and a valid interpretation, but for me the meaning has always seemed more far reaching. The constant unknowing for me is a metaphor for humans and love. Su and Chow know nothing, the viewer knows nothing, Wong knows nothing. We are simply all trudging through the deep dark blood red force that we call love, attempting to find sense and solace in the intense glimmers of hope.
Su Li-zhen Chan: Am I hopeless?
Chow Mo-wan: Not really.