In The Mood For Love is poetically acted, intelligently scripted and critically and financially successful. It is a modern take to the star crossed lovers tale where two spouses move into adjacent flats and, growing closer through the realisation of their partners affair, eventually fall in love. Yet, seen from another perspective, this romantic tale is instead a journey to the past guided by the contemplation of missed opportunities. To me the film reads as a contemplative memoire about the fleetingness of time; an evocative representation of how the importance of events and relationships can be truly revealed only when time has passed and passion has faded.
The contemplation of time and memory pervades the film in every aspect, from the scenario and montage to the visual and musical elements. Slow motion is used to visualise the stream of consciousness which, elevated by Umebayashi’s melancholic symphony, transforms a linear narrative into a contemplation of the past. From Mr. Chow realising that his wife has been lying to him about working late, to the two lovers brushing by one another through a narrow street alley, every moment is drawn out as in awareness of its future importance. Similarly, the washed out look of otherwise vibrant colours together with the anonymity of outdoor streets and alleys are the reflections of fading memories—what once seemed so real and vibrant is now just a faded polaroid at the bottom of your drawer.
The story flows through an unspecified amount of time and, as the relationship between the two characters develops, each scene cuts in time by what could be days, weeks or even months. When Mr Chow mentions his interest in martial arts novels, Mrs Chen replies that she would borrow some in the future. The following scene then shows her returning a stack of novels. The timeframe between the two is unknown. Most of the story is shown as a recollection, only the last chapter is narrated in the present, when the two lovers, driven by nostalgia, revisit their old apartments in an attempt to reconnect to the emotions of their faded past. While everything looks the same, that which they seek is long gone. The past can be seen but not touched.
Through this perspective, action—or rather the lack of—becomes the source of regret which prompts this dive into the past, introduced by the first captions in the film: “She has kept her head lowered... to give him a chance to come closer. But he could not, for lack of courage.” This same trait is reflected in the dynamics between the main characters and everyone around them. They hide from their neighbours despite their innocence, they let their bosses and friends walk over them, and they avoid any confrontation with their spouses. All then becomes a reflection of their inability to confess their true feelings to one another, and yet it is the flaw that most ties them together. Their lack of resolve to confront their partners pushes them to re- enact possible past and future interactions with and between their spouses. This suspended state brings them towards one another. Room 2046, where the two spend time working on Mr Chow’s novel, becomes their sanctuary away from the judgmental eyes of nosey neighbours, where timid smiles and stolen glances are exchanged through a montage sequence that evokes the contemplative fondness of a distant memory.
Memories and the regrets that come with them are therefore the central design principle of the movie, narratively explored through the premise of an unfulfilled love story. Wong Kar Wai made me reflect upon my past, upon heartbreaks and missed chances, upon the nostalgia of a passed time which now exists only in the fondness of its recollection.

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