Silhouettes, Shadows, & Smoke: Lighting in In the Mood for Love

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Sherlock Ziauddin

Wong Kar-wei’s In the Mood For Love depicts the story of a man (Chow) and a woman (Su) who, both suspecting that their spouses are involved in extramarital affairs, become close companions to each other in their loneliness. As the story progresses, however, their platonic friendship spills over and they begin to fall in love.

Their story unfolds in carefully controlled sequences that are almost dreamlike in nature as, together, they fabricate a fantasy world for themselves in which they pretend to be in love as their spouses are – and then continue, even when the façade of romantic affection becomes a reality. One of the most obvious visual cues in the mise-en-scène that indicate the portrayal of these moments is in the lighting. In all of these sequences, the lighting is more dramatic: it is low-key, sharp, and almost always artificial, as these scenes overwhelmingly take place under cover of night. This type of lighting is fundamental in setting the mood in these sequences; the subtle expression of emotion and the tension of physical bodies is highlighted, literally, by its use.

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Dressing up for Noodles: Costume Design in In the Mood for Love

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Wei Yi Ow

In the Mood for Love (2000) is a beautiful study in restraint. Set in 1960s Hong Kong, the film details the intimate relationship that develops between two lonely neighbours, Chow Mo-wan (Tony Leung) and Su Li-zhen (Maggie Cheung). Neglected and later betrayed by their spouses, they foster a special kinship which social mores dictate must be concealed. This is a society that operates not by brute force but by much more subtle ways; through its institutions, through the eyes and ears of one’s neighbors, through the personal values individuals feel compelled to uphold, and the dark desires they actively repress.

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