On our good days and our bad days, everyone loves love. This universal feeling of butterflies in our stomachs, nervous laughter, and even heartbreak is something that we can’t deny that we love to see on the screen and makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside. So, let’s all admit now that we love a good love story. From classic cheesy romantic movies to deeply heartbreaking romantic tear-jerkers, there is always enough love to go around in cinema.
In particular, 2000’s romantic drama In the Mood For Love is often described as one of the greatest romance films of all time, as well as a masterpiece in general that was included in the revered Sight and Sound’s ‘Greatest Films of All Time’ poll. But don’t get too happy just yet, as you’ll have to have the tissues ready with this one. Written and directed by Wong Kar-wai (who is best known for the non-linear narratives and unique cinematography in his films), In the Mood For Love follows a man (Tony Leung) and a woman (Maggie Cheung) whose partners both seem to be preoccupied with work a bit too often. They eventually find out that their partners have both had an affair together, and amongst all their heartbreak, they slowly figure out that they have feelings for each other. So, what makes this sad but romantic movie so tragic and brilliant, and one of the best romance movies of all time?
A Truly Tragic Love
The atmosphere that In the Mood For Love creates is the feeling of deep longing for someone; audiences are shown mixed emotions like lust, regret, rejection, desire, and heartbreak. When the characters’ unconventional romance is based on a shared bond of sadness, the foreshadowing is clear that this will be a tragic love story. Something that makes this movie so unique is that it deals with the idea of the impossible thing, gorgeously revealing the inherent sadness in desire.
As tragic as it is, it can also become fairly relatable. Have you ever had to keep yourself away from something that you want uncontrollably? Have you ever wanted something more simply because you can’t have it? with In the Mood For Love, the two lovers are forcing themselves to be strictly platonic, all the while suffering due to their deep longing for each other. This is the typical story of unrequited love, but filtered through so many other prisms (class, politics, memory, and so on).
In the Mood For Love is subtle, and it is rare that we find a romance movie that tells the audience so much by showing so little. There doesn’t need to be much dialogue to feel how really intimate the atmosphere is. Even if we were given merely sound, light, and eye contact, we can still feel the chemistry between the characters, thanks to Wong Kar-wai and the performances.
Both Leung and Cheung’s talent in portraying love, sadness, heartbreak, and longing all in one go is phenomenal and brings something very raw and vulnerable to what could have been the perfect love story. Even as they try their best to fight their love for one another, this movie doesn’t just represent their love, but love itself; how it lingers in our minds, how it is sometimes uncontrollable and unexpected. When their gut instincts are telling them to follow this doomed love, it is both romantic yet totally devastating.
The Visual Beauty of Love
Of course, as Kar-wai is well known for his cinematographic choices, the use of lighting is something that cannot go unnoticed in this movie. The unique soft, dull, and lonely lighting is what that captures the feelings of loss, loneliness, intimacy, sadness, and being unsatisfied so wonderfully, and creates an atmosphere for the audience that is achingly gorgeous and heartbreaking.
By illustrating the very essence of an unexpected love and the beauty of raw emotions purely through visuals has to be one of the main reasons that this movie has to be at the top of the list of romantic movies, with some of the best cinematography in cinema . We can’t help but feel truly sorry for the characters and might even relate that feeling to our own lives, making In the Mood For Love something very special.
While the visuals may be stunning, the way the camera follows the two characters is also something fairly unique. It remains very secretive as the positioning of the camera is used at angles that almost feel as though we are spying on them. This subtle yet essential detail is used perfectly to capture the exciting, scary, secretive feeling of falling in love. Many viewers will surely be familiar with that initial shock of feeling something for someone you shouldn’t; it feels dangerous but addictive.
Between the cinematography, storytelling, and brilliant acting, In the Mood For Love captures perhaps every feeling that love can provide us. While it may not be the perfect cheesy love story that make us smile and giggle, this movie is both aesthetically incredible but also raw, real, and a true representation of the struggles of true love, the heartbreak and anger of betrayal and is realistic in how falling in love is hard, saddening, and sometimes doomed.