I’m in the Mood for Love [Kar Wai Wong] is, at the very least, an interesting directorial take on narrative structure. Kar Wai Wong used a style of cinematography that could easily be described as a photo album of the secret lives of two characters from an outside and unseen observer. This photo-by-photo style does a lot to accentuate is surreptitious nature of the relationship between Chow Mo-wan [Tony Leung Chiu Wai] and Su Li-zhen [Maggie Cheung] and the inner conflict the two of them struggle with.
Starting with how Kar Wai Wong manages to pull off this third person perspective, one can note that the camera is extremely static whenever the characters are in the cramped apartment building or in their work places. This simulates the idea that the audience member is a resident/co-worker involved directly with the plot. Such a technique also amplifies the proximity of these characters from start to finish.
There are also a few times when the camera does manage to dolly and move about more freely. However, this only happen when the camera has ample room to move and/or when one of two music tracks play. These music tracks are important marks. They literally map out when the character arcs are changing and when the perspective changes from the third person perspective to omnipresence. This still accomplishes the idea that the audience is watching them, just without the characters being aware of anyone’s presence. The audience is essentially spying them on.
When these elements of cinematography are incorporated into the narrative structure, the question of “Why shoot it this way” becomes clearer. This picture-by-picture style of direction, cinematography, and writing leaves you in an obstructed view of what is occurring. Things in the movie only become clear when they become clear for the characters themselves. Even then, Kar Wai Wong leaves small bits of important information up for the audience to piece together.
The next issue is picture order. Some shots may seem a bit out of order at first, but then you realize they are actually repeated. The alley is where these always occur. However, it is quite simple to see what is happening. The director is providing the inner conflict and motives for each character independently. Mr. Chow will share his view on the matter, and then rewind, and Mrs. Chan shares her view on the matter. These are physical representations of both characters’ inner struggle during their affair.
This idea links directly to the mise en scenes. The alley in which they expose their innermost thoughts is completely neutral colors with one faded red line. If you can’t see the reference here, then get glasses. The red line symbolizes the “line” the two characters have crossed by cheating on their spouses. However, the line is faded which raises the question “Should they care about the line?” The neutral coloring of the alley supports the faded line’s purpose. Neutral colors symbolize the neutrality of their relationship. They both are aware that their spouses are having affairs, so what does it matter that they have an affair? The end result of every spouse cheating on each other is a neutral outcome.
Kar Wai Wong could have just focued on the other spouses and their relationships and told it in a linear fashion. However, such a choice of direction would have only meant a rather unoriginal take on Archplot structure. I’m in the Mood for Love is a creative directorial interpretation of the other side of adultery, “the victims.” For the movie to emulate a photo album, the audience is told to think actively about the ultimate theme, The End of an Era. Instead of directing a typical Archplot, Kar Wai Wong successfully lands the story between the realms of Minimalism and Antiplot.