(Talking movies, differently #4)
Can you ground rule love with morality? If so, does it work?
Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love isn’t just a simple, visually enticing and expressive movie where a similar kind of betrayal sows seeds for togetherness in suffering that eventually circulates to its own source (apparently, if your ethics in love say so). It’s a movie that tries to replicate the betrayal by the sufferers in order to understand their own partners and to share affinity in the similar kind of pain thus transcending into their own kind of love. Set in the 1960s’ Hong Kong, the cultural setting of the story and the characters seems to be streamed into the rigid constructs of marriage and morality, which of course the movie doesn’t fail to portray visually by using the ‘frame within a frame’ technique in its cinematography. Often caught in between the classic conflict of ‘to do or not to do,’ Chan and Su’s love is sadly left behind as a secret whispered in a cracked wall of some distant temple in Cambodia.
The movie explores a very individual kind of love between Chan and Su, a kind of love or a space they share or have created together to combat their loneliness, a similar kind of betrayal from their spouses, and to share a part of their lives together for their pain is similar. But it’s not simple for they could not anticipate where this space would lead them. On one hand where the ache of infidelity of their spouses tortures them, the fear of becoming like their partners doesn’t leave their conscience. And in the middle of the binding shackles of conditioned principles in living and loving, they do find, feel, share and express their love for one another, only the constructs are too strong for them at the right time and their luck is a little stunted for they keep ‘just missing’ one another towards the end of the movie in the hope of meeting.
This movie is certainly not a simple watch. What would I have done had I been in Su’s place? This movie became a special movie for me because it got me out of my comfort zone, it made me explore the possibility of love beyond the constructs we try to frame it with. Would I have been courageous enough to pursue a love like this? Or would I have been satisfied by just having found this love and not having passed Chan like a speck of dust in the universe and be happy about the love that I had the chance to feel than actually challenging my ideals to pursue it?
As I write this post I think of Francesca and Robert from The Bridges of Madison County. It wasn’t the question of morality over there that separated the two, it was a matter of Francesca’s character, her responsibilities. Francesca’s and Robert’s ‘third being’ was essentially theirs, just theirs. And so why evaluate love on the grounds of morality? Toni Morrison in her novel, The Bluest Eye, says that, ‘Love is never better than the lover.’ And I’d like to extend it by adding that love is also never worse than the lover. Chan and Su’s love can’t be called profane for they weren’t profane. As far as the pursuit of this love in the movie is concerned, it was tragic what happened.