Several women enter a science fiction author's life over the course of a few years, after the author has lost the woman he considers his one true love.Several women enter a science fiction author's life over the course of a few years, after the author has lost the woman he considers his one true love.Several women enter a science fiction author's life over the course of a few years, after the author has lost the woman he considers his one true love.
Wong Kar Kai is a filmmaker who calls for a personal empathy. He works to capture all the unique dynamics of romance, and how they bend our sense of time and space.
He turns his camera every which angle to try and find new vocabulary for telling a story. Well, he doesn't tell stories, he asks whether stories are found in relationships. We get pieces of stories on top of hidden stories, our focus shifts from "story" to emergent feelings out of the glimpses.
This is sophisticated, and scary when unprepared for the exotic nature. We want the familiar, but are given delicately meandering puzzles, opaque hints at beginnings, middles, and endings. Just like we don't always know at what point our own stories are unfolding. But we know the emotional states as they are lived.
Since 2046 lacks many standard cadences, it is a struggle to follow the statement through the movements. These are not even vignettes, these are a seamless series of leaps that push and pull like the emotions of day to day life. They have an indecisive flux we hope is asymptotically reaching a conclusion, but they just keep coalescing and spilling over into the imagined future from where no one has yet returned. Once we think we have moved beyond the past do we then realize that we create an unknown future by attempting to reconstruct the past in the present.
And so the main character is a writer of 'fiction' (this very movie) who through the process of embedding real life circumstances into his science fiction he also tries to determine if there is a destination this is all heading. 2046 is a place you visit to relive unchanging memories so that you will never change. Alternately, 2046 is also a time existent only within a science fiction novel when people will access substitute lovers without the haunts of what broke them in the past. So they think.
He has already been damaged by the loss of an impossible standard that cannot be met by another (see In the Mood for Love first!). So in his novel, lovers become characters. Feelings become fictional ornamentations in the future. In the present, he cannot connect with the women who come and go. In the fiction, the lack of connection is simply a matter of technological limitations.
Think about what happens in the aftermath of a failed relationship or a missed opportunity. We may grieve, but also sometimes we obsessively construct a future fantasy based on what should have happened if things had gone right; if only some vital detail didn't change things how it did. We inhabit that imagined future and interact with our counterpart ghost, making plans and times and places accordingly. We might use this process as a shield and a warning. Or it sabotages, taking on a life of its own as a mental blueprint, directing the actual present and perceptions of new companions.
Lush, poetic cinematography fills each second of this film to great mood inducing effects. In 1960's Hong Kong, where the bulk of the events take place, the dynamics of romantic encounters hide in unassuming corners of that society, only brought to light by looking at the normal world in very abnormal ways. One almost gets the impression that set pieces and abstract designations were literally dreamed up. The camera often cramps our frame of vision. Various off-center closeups which in a sense shut out the outside world, but paradoxically bring it all in to bear. There are many places where the camera does not seem to have a good shot of a character or an event, we the viewers were just unlucky to miss the opportunity of getting the full revelation of something.
And it frustrates; we want to know everything but get very little by way of visual exposition. We are forced to work on the clues, the voice overs, the symmetrical accidents in different centuries and different countries. This is not analogous to idly putting together a complex puzzle set, this is reconstructing a mystery while at the same time being on the verge of shedding tears at the quiet understanding that it isn't a mystery, it's life with a character who mediates between reality and fantasy to deal with it all. I know the kinds of things this film is about, but I've never looked at them from this stance before. As is often the case, the artist (here the writer/filmmaker) is just the one who experiences what the rest of us experience and talks about its secrets rather than conceals them.
See this film if you want to know how it's possible to visually show the invisible, inner turbulence and romantic visions that tend to hide from the outside world. On the whole, 2046 weaves in the present a future fiction invaded by the past, bred by the throes of confronting the human faces of opportunities that appear, disappear, reappear and fade and collapse into each other.
- Jan 19, 2006