In the Mood for Love

This film was suggested in the course notes as an example of artificial lighting. I had mentioned in a blog post that I couldn’t find it, and Catherine said I could rent it on Amazon, so I did. It is directed by Kar Wei-Wong and was released in 2000.

I found the movie amazingly beautiful. It is subtitled and about 90 minutes long. The story is of two neighbours in Hong Kong who become friends after learning that their partners are having an affair with each other. It’s a fairly claustrophobic film with most scenes taking place within crowded rooms, narrow corridors, small offices… and most scenes are artificially lit too, even the outdoor scenes are generally at night, after dark, so they benefit from artificial lighting too. There’s the tiniest handful of daylight scenes, generally with characters other than the main two.

The lighting is almost used as a character is in its own right, often commanding a scene before characters enter or after they leave. Light fittings themselves are shown often adding structure to the composition of a scene as well as lighting it. Mirrors and reflections are widely used, as are shadows. Characters are viewed through stripes of shadow or frames (either physical frames or of light/shade). The lighting is a thing of joy, adding richness to colour, sheen and texture to textiles, expression to faces. I couldn’t imagine this film in black and white. In one of the final scenes a young boy almost acts as a light in his own right, you can see the sun glowing through the skin on his ears and off his face. I liked how the film gave the sources of the light as much prominence as the characters and scenes that the fittings were lighting.

I learned that light, colour, shadow, shade and reflection are far more closely entwined than I had previously considered. I was reassured that my telephone box concept for A4 should work – the use of a particular light within a physically constrained environment. In the last scene Mr Chow talks about remembering his life “as though looking through a dusty window pane”. This to me is one of the characteristics of a telephone box after dark, one of the characteristics that I want to show in the work. Glass and mirror are used extensively in the film. I liked that the film was so efficient, the subtitles gave a sparse and speedy plot, detail shots were often included and there was some very effective cropping. There is a lot to learn from there.

Getting up after the film, my house looked different. It was like how your vision changes when your glasses prescription changes. I would very much to buy this film, and its beautiful soundtrack.


2 thoughts on “In the Mood for Love

  1. Stefan J Schaffeld March 5, 2017 / 8:16 am

    Kate – thanks for your personal review of that film I didn’t known before. I could feel the touch of the light and shadows and do like how you relate to it in the aftermath. I had a quick look at the trailer and already like it. Not only the amazing shadow and light mastery but also the close up views on human behavior e.g. hand touching the arm. Quite some subject to learn from in figurative painting. a small book I read comes to my mind (different story though) : ‘In praise of shadows’ by Jun’ichiro Tanizaki.


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