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Tag: Pain

In the Mood for Love – Review & Analysis

IntheMood for Love

“Sometimes I wonder if I wasn’t married how would life be…?”
“… Probably happier.”

[SPOILERS]

Wabi-sabi is a Japanese philosophy of finding the beauty in imperfection, a belief that the stories and history embedded in a frayed item reflects a deeper charm than just a pristine exterior. Kintsugi is a Japanese art form which heavily borrows upon this thinking, where broken pottery pieces are glued together with a mixture of gold, silver and platnium. This isn’t just an act of repairment but instead a transformation, where the item’s past is seen as an extension of its beauty; in many ways kintsugi is the perfect metaphor for life.

In the Mood for Love (2000) directed by Kar-Wai Wong explores the bitter loneliness and human desire for warmth which simultaneously plague our psyches. Our two protagonist; Chow Mo-wan and Su Li-zhen move into two apartments close to each other, but are only drawn to each other when they suspect that their partners are cheating with the other’s respective spouse. In the crowded streets of Hong Kong in 1962, both Chow and Su are constantly surrounded by the faces of people never revealed to us, a clever decision to make the audience invest more heavily into the two leading protagonist. Lost in this sea of bodies, they often find themselves trapped in claustrophic spaces with only their feelings as company.

Apart from the theme of loneliness which permeates every scene, dialogue and interaction, is the question about the double edge nature of fate. Chow Mo-wan and Su Li-zhen interact with each other for brief moments at the start of the film; meeting on the street only to politely excuse themselves from speaking to each other. Only when rains traps them both together underneath a shoddy street lamp do they finally get a chance to establish repertoire. Only thirty minutes into this film, do the audience finally see the two characters attempt to peel away the calluses around their hearts.

Yet no matter how longingly the exquisitely beautiful Su Li-zhen and the mournfully handsome Chow Mo-wan stare at each other, there is always this barrier which stifles their relationship. This uncomfortable distance which seems to repel away all human contact is cleverly reinforced in the camera work and the mise en scène. The camera seems to spy on the protagonist in the long hallways, the pair repeatly walk infront of fences which resemble a cage. The mirrors serve as a clever motif in this film, highlighting how oppressive the lack of space is in these dingy apartments, but also the duality of Chow Mo-wan and Su Li-zhen; they crave yet fear love. This sense of melancholy acts as a barrier, and the audience is often forced to peek into their lives behind a window screen or curtain, as if the audience is physically prevented from changing their sombre destinies which have already been set in stone.

The colour palette of this film is simply stunning, draped in luscious reds and satin yellows, the time that Chow Mo-wan and Su Li-zhen spend together in their hotel rooms usher the audience into a dream like state; where laughter is plentiful and noodles are always eaten with company. However amongst the flirtious looks and playful mannerisms, both protagonist are scared to develop feelings for the other. Both openly voice that having sex would “reduce them to the same level” as their disloyal spouses. Yet these words ring off as just a convenient excuse, in truth their lives have been sullied by infidelity and an act as passionate as sex would only leave them more vulnerable to the actions of the other party.

IntheMood for Love

“You notice things, if you pay attention.”

The fickle nature of Lady Luck is also seen at the end of the film when Chow Mo-wan asks Su Li-zhen to flee with him to Singapore; the promise of a ‘new life’ deeply alluring for both of them. Unsure of her response, Chow waits for her in a rented hotel room smirking sadly to himself before leaving, only to have Su arrive moments later; so close, but ultimately too late. And just like that our protagonist are denied the happiness they both deserve. Our hearts beat for their sadness and we curse the Gods who seem to be playing dice with their feelings. But ironically, their feelings itself was a stroke of chance, a relationship which was only nurtured through their proximity, poorly timed rain and their spouse’s infidelity.

So the protagonists try to express their feelings in methods which still maintain their self autonomy, phone calls seem to the main form of communicating in the 1960s Hong Kong landscape; a happy medium between the vulnerability of speech and the coldness of fax machines. After life has whisked Chow Mo-wan off to Singapore, Su Li-zhen calls him to hear his voice, he answers and then both remain silent on the phone, comforted by the simultaneous proximity and distance of their lover.

Chow keeps a pair of slippers that Su left in his room once as a souvenir of their love, even bringing this item to Singapore. Months later she would visit Singapore only to take back that keepsake, leaving only a smoked cigarette with lipstick on his ashtray as a sign of her presence. It’s a game of cat and mice, where the first to admit their true feelings loses, it’s not a healthy relationship, but after countless scars on their heart, it’s the best they can do.

The finale concludes with Chow Mo-wan whispering his pains, regrets and secrets into a stone hallow at a Cambodian temple before sealing it with dirt. Unable to find someone to confide in, he chooses, like those long distance phone calls, a method where he can speak his mind without hearing an answer.

Years after, both Chow and Su find themselves back in Hong Kong, they attempt to reconnect with each other a final time but are ultimately unsucessful as their communication slowly ceased, their fate once again seemingly sealed by an omnipresent force. Their future runs like parallel lines, oddly close to each other yet never capable of insecting again, their time has past and time is merciless.

But when it starts to rain, or when they pass by the noodle store where they had their first date, the lights of Hong Kong will shine a little redder and cigarette smoke will roll a little more graceful, as they both reminisce on the genuine feelings of longing which both tortured and gave them purpose in 1962.

Chow Mo-wan and Su Li-zhen were both in the mood for love, they just won’t capable of it yet.

“Why did you call me at the office today?”
“I had nothing to do. I just wanted to hear your voice.”

Love, the Two Sided Sword

How do Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis and Walter Raleigh’s The Nymph’s Reply explore the theme of love through contrasting interpretations?

This essay heavily references Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis which you can read here and The Nymph’s Reply written by Walter Raleigh which you can also read here.

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“Thank you, I’ll say goodbye soon
Though it’s the end of the world, don’t blame yourself…Now
And if it’s true, I’ll surround you and give life to a world
That’s our own”

Love is an emotion which transcends all boundaries, since it is interwoven to the human experience and a foundation of humanity; many texts have tried to interpret the magnitude and consequences of love. Venus and Adonis twists Ovid’s classic tale to reflect the dance of love, the pushing and pulling between two parties, whilst The Nymph’s Reply emphasizes a cold and logical response to stifle a burst of passion.

In many respects Venus and Adonis could be read as a cautionary tale against resisting the natural temptations of passion and lust and the socially accepted practice of forming a stable relationship to create children. Adonis has reached the age of adolescent, the age where he can openly choose his future, whether that lies in the realm of hyper-masculinity or a reality where he embraces feminine emotions like love. Unfortunately Adonis’ obsession with the militant characteristics of masculinity such as being a soldier or hunting means his “heart stands armed in his ear.” Adonis views love in a logical and emotionless state and thus he is never able to understand its power to unite. He responds to Venus’ advances with more references to his violent and militaristic mentality “remove your siege from my unyielding heart/ to love’s alarms it will not ope the gate.” Adonis’ fixation on the unattractive elements of love ultimately leads to his demise, this epyllion warns about the dangers of forsaking love and delving too deeply into masculinity. On the other hand, The Nymph’s Reply pushes a different agenda, emphasising the benefits of choosing logic over love, believing that desires to reproduce or fall in love are foolish.

Unwilling and unable to succumb to the weakening effects of love, Adonis is consumed with slaying a boar, a symbol of uncontrolled masculinity and reckless passion during the Renaissance. Blinded by his need to prove himself, Adonis forsakes one of the foundational pillars of humanity; the ability to forge and maintain sophisticated and complex relationships. Another interpretation may view Adonis’ death as a warning against homosexuality since one is straying into a relationship deemed ‘unnatural’ since “thou art bound to breed.” This reading is reinforced by the description of the boar as the “loving swine” who had attempted to “nuzzle” with Adonis and merely wanted to plant a kiss on him, the sexual connotations hinting at a possible romance. The tusk “sheathed in his soft groin” emphaises how homosexuality can be dangerous. It symbolically destroys Adonis’ manhood; as homosexual relationships are inherently unable to create new life, necessary to maintain the human species.

The Nymph’s Reply explores the theme of from a different angle, unlike Venus and Adonis which warns about the dangers of isolation and failing to build a connection to others, the Nymph completely rejects the notion of love. Because human life is finite, promises of love and passion will only echo true in the moment, for the Nymph such rhetoric only serves to hide the suitor’s lust. This is echoed in the statement “If all the world and love were young/ and truth in every shepherd’s tongue” the hyperbole sorely contradicts the sombre reality of an imperfect world where the nymph and her suitors live in. An imperfect world where idealistic emotions fall on deaf ears, where promises of fidelity ring hollow.

The Nymph shares a similar opinion to Adonis, believing love to be an intrusive force, powerful enough to strip away one’s independence. The vast majority of the poem involves the Nymph scientifically and methodically refuting the shepherd’s words, “Times drives the flocks from field to fold… Rivers rage and rocks grow cold.”  In the Nymph’s Reply there is a clear focus upon winter imagery, purposely contradicting and countering the connotations of spring, hope and growth found in the shepherd’s response. This is also reflected in “The flowers do fade, and wanton fields/ to wayward reckoning yields.” The physical gifts like gowns, caps and a bed of roses promised by the shepherd “soon break, soon wither, soon forgotten:” the repetition of “soon” further reinforces the fragility of love and how promises of faithfulness, which were once full of joy and gratitude will deteriorate. The decay of natural objects is a metaphor for the fading feelings that humans will inevitably experience. Unlike Venus, who tries to persuade Adonis to have sexual intercourse with her because life is short, beauty will eventually fade and thus one is charged to enjoy and relish their youth. The Nymph sees love as rather pointless, a superficial and trivial feeling which cannot and will not survive the passing of time.

The Nymph stands as the traditional symbol of the Petrarchan mistress, being virtuous and beautiful in one sense but cruel and unempathetic on the other hand. But in Venus and Adonis, this role which is typically reserved for the female is filled by Adonis, highlighting how love and passion respects no boundaries like gender, age or culture. The uncontrollable desires and consequences are shown to bringing out the animal savagery within people, transforming the noble goddess into a fierce and violent eagle. Unsatisfied with Adonis, Shakespeare gives us a gorgy description of Venus’ pursuit “Tires with her beak in feathers, flesh and bone… devouring all in haste… till gorge be stuffed or prey be gone.” The morphing of characters are poetic techniques trying to capture the selfish and destructive capabilities of unchecked lust or passion. These emotions have the ability to transform a human being into whatever it wills, where that is an animal, a flower or be the catalyst for an incestuous and borderline paedophilic relationship.

It is through these animal metaphors that, Shakespeare’s presentation of love starts to match the Nymph’s Reply, “Now quick desire hath caught the yielding prey… I’ll be a park and thou shalt be my deer.” By degrading Adonis to a prey and a deer, the possessive and selfish motivators in love are revealed; Venus’ words are inspired by lust, which is inseparable from love or passion. The extended metaphor of Venus’ body as a park and Adonis as a small, insignificant animal trapped within, further reinforces the one sided nature of love, the negative qualities which the Nymph spoke off. The crippling repercussions are so strong that even the god of love and fertility has fallen victim to her own domain, as Shakespeare paradoxically writes “She’s love, she loves, yet she is not loved.”

There are many similarities and differences between the two texts, as they both try to explore the diverse topic of love from various perspectives. Venus and Adonis focuses upon the push and pull of two people. Whilst it stresses the controlling and damaging aspects of love, if Adonis embraced love, he would have been ultimately saved. The Nymph’s Reply on the other hand aims to purely point out the unreliable nature of love as it attempts to cover up lustful intentions, the Nymph’s responses pushes the belief that love is superficial in a superficial world.

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