If only my life could look this freaking gorgeous!
Screenplay By: Kar Wai Wong
Directed By: Kar Wai Wong
Love is fleeting and relationships come and go. Yet, we still manage to make an impact on one another, even when we would rather not admit that there is resonance. This, and a lack of listening, appear to be the main themes of Kar Wai Wong’s 2004 effort, 2046. I greatly enjoyed the manner in which those themes were explored, but I was most impressed by the way the characters helped to move the themes along. 2046 is not an easy movie and its characters never provide an easy answer. That’s why for as much as I did love the themes of the film, it’s the way the characters interacted with one another in exploration of said themes that pulled me in the deepest.
Usually in a movie when one character says to another character, “Do we know each other?” the response is a straight forward, “Of course we do!” This is followed by plenty of exposition explaining how the two characters really do know one another. Their entire relationship history is plotted out for the viewer so that any mystery is removed from the equation. 2046 takes a different path, the path of vagueness and half-truths. In 2046 when a character says, “Do we know each other?” the response is, “How could you forget?” followed by a wordplay around the idea of memory and then rumination on the memory of love. The exposition of the memory itself is of little importance, and even when the screenplay does take us through a relationship it’s in very vague terms. Every relationship in 2046 is tangential, yet at the same time it is deep and resonant. That is a quandary that the film never seeks to solve because the human condition when it comes to love and relationships cannot be solved. Instead Xiānshēng Wong nestles his characters in the heart of memory and the distortions of love.
The audience sees all of this through a smoky haze, a haze provided by Christopher Doyle and Pung-Leung Kwan (although I had a tough time finding any hard facts on Xiānshēng Kwan’s actual involvement with the film). Mr. Doyle is a master cinematographer, making use of shadow, lighting, and shade in a way that only a handful of cinematographers can accomplish. Mr. Doyle’s images aren’t just pretty pictures though, they help to bolster the themes and story of 2046. When we see Tony Leung Chiu Wai disappear into a blur of smoke it’s a damn gorgeous looking image. Moving beyond the gorgeous, that image eloquently tells the tale of a man retreating from himself. The character Xiānshēng Wai plays has been so hurt by love that he refuses to allow himself to be seen for long. He comes out of his shell and into brighter colors just long enough for a relationship to sting him and then he retreats back to the safety of his smokey cloud. Xiānshēng Wong and Mr. Doyle partner up for what may be the last time in 2046, and the result is a sumptuous feast for the eyes.
It’s not surprising that 2046 is a fine motion picture, I’ve come to expect nothing less than that from Xiānshēng Wong. 2046 refuses to adhere to conventional storytelling methods and offers an eloquent take on the connection between love, memories, and relationships. Xiānshēng Wong’s film avoids the cliches that are the downfall of most explorations of love, while his visual and dialogue based narrative tells a very strong thematic story. As per the usual for Xiānshēng Wong 2046 is a mood piece, based in atmosphere and visual artistry. Any person who has any memory of love owes it to themselves to take a gander at 2046.