Wednesday, November 28, 2012

In the Mood for Love (2000)

     Well, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you another foreign film. This one’s from Hong Kong, “In the Mood for Love”, made in 2000 by a guy named Wong Kar-wai, who is apparently a groundbreaking director that I never heard of until recently. But this film, which is I guess his best film, made it to spot number twenty-four on the latest British Film Institute Sight and Sound poll, the one that claimed “Vertigo” the greatest film of all time.

     The film takes place in Hong Kong in the 1960’s and spans across a couple years. We first meet two young people, a man named Chow Mo-wan (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) and a woman named Su Li-zhen (Maggie Cheung Man yuk). Chow finds a room in an apartment for him and his wife right after Su gets the room next door for her and her husband. As they move in their furniture on the same day, they seem to start off on a chaotic start, but eventually they start talking to each other and asking where the other’s spouse is, which is usually overtime at work.

     But soon, the two of them are consumed by a terrible feeling: that their spouses are seeing each other. What makes it worse (and at the same time very interesting to watch in the film) is that the spouses’ faces never appear on-screen: we hear their voices in phone conversations occasionally, but we never see them. And because of this, there’s even more uncertainty that the viewer feels as well as Chow and Su.

     Through this situation, however, Chow and Su seem to start bonding as they start spending more time together. And at one point, they have a short conversation reflecting on what they do with themselves both alone and with their spouse:

CHOW: On your own, you are free to do lots of things. Everything changes when you marry. It must be decided together. Right? I sometimes wonder what I’d be if I hadn’t married. Have you ever thought of that?

SU: Maybe happier! I didn’t know married life would be so complicated! When you’re single, you are only responsible to yourself. Once you’re married, doing well on your own is not enough.

CHOW: Don’t brood on it. Maybe he’ll be back soon.

SU: What about you?

CHOW: Actually, we’re in the same boat. But I don’t brood on it. It’s not my fault. I can’t waste time wondering if I made mistakes. Life’s too short for that. Something must change.

     And this decision to change results in an increasing relationship between Chow and Su… which the neighbors start to notice, unfortunately for the worse. Eventually, to make a long story short (ironically, since this film is under two hours long), Chow and Su start parting their ways, to get rid of feelings that they are going in the same direction as their cheating spouses. Within a couple years, Chow goes from Hong Kong to Singapore and back, with Su trying to go with him but just barely connecting with him in time.

     The film ends on a very ambiguous—and, in my opinion, unsatisfying note… though that’s probably what Kar-wai was intending. Chow, in an earlier scene at a restaurant with a friend, talked about how people in the old days, if they had a secret they could not share, went up to the mountains, made a hollow in a tree, whispered their secret into the hollow, and covered it up with mud. And so, a little time after Chow returns shortly to his old apartment (and just misses seeing Su there with her son), he goes to the mountains of Cambodia and whispers a secret into a hollow, where it remains till who knows when.

     I’ll be honest with you guys about a topic that I’ve been thinking about on and off this semester: marriage. Not that I’m about to propose or anything, mind you, I’m not even dating anyone. But I have been wondering a lot about when that might happen, and whether or not that ever will. But whatever situation I find myself in, in a relationship or not, will I still follow the Lord’s commands for my life? An interesting passage of Scripture is found in 1 Corinthians 7, where the apostle Paul talks about marriage based a lot on his own convictions: as he says, “I, not the Lord” (7:12). He goes so far as to say that being single is better than being married!

     Paul writes, “I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife—and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.” (7:32-35)

     The conversation I quoted between Chow and Su reminded me of this passage: marriage is hard work. It takes the constant effort of both the man and the woman involved. And sometimes, as Chow and Su have found, things can fall apart. Su was right: doing well on your own is not enough. But that’s what Paul talks about here: being married can cause a division between your interests. It’s not a bad thing by any means, but if not treated the right way, it can take away your devotion to God, and if that’s gone, so is your marriage.

     So my prayer for you is that whatever situation you find yourself in, married or single, dating or waiting, that you will glorify God in everything you do and be grateful regardless of how alone you might feel sometimes. Because He is always there for us, especially in the tough times.

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