In the Mood for Love [IMDB link] is a meditation on time. It uses music to transcend the celluloid constraints of time and space. Why, even in life, we edit our memories, while listening to some evocative tune.
Music is a tool for emotion. Without music, only the imaginative can see emotion in longing-ness portrayed by the actors.
Music slows the rhythm of this film. Imagine that you work like a wind all day long, shuffling between files and rooms and bosses and quick coffee breaks and then you come back home - alone, its quiet, and you settle to reflect on the day. That’s when the time is slow. That’s when your life is long.
This clip from the film:
There are many important things to do in life than walk down a staircase to buy food. Yet, this is when the force of thoughts hit you. The mundaneness of your action bears the memory of the most important things of life. This ordinariness and how you deal with it reflects your life.
And the music, used repeatedly in the film, is a reflection of this.
When everything is over...
It is a restless moment.
She has kept her head lowered,
to give him a chance to come closer.
But he could not, for lack of courage.
She turns and walks away.
That era has passed.
Nothing that belonged to it exists any more.
He remembers those vanished years.
As though looking through a dusty window pane,
the past is something he could see, but not touch.
And everything he sees is blurred and indistinct. [Source]
Film is poetry, music and all factors that are artistic, but often ignored in the process of pleasing an audience and achieving other ineptitudes.
The repetition of the musical theme is to show hidden sorrow despite the kaleidoscope of noise and light and colour. It is a symbol of time, of what cooks within the hearts.
Poetry is a means to transcend time. To connect years and thoughts - If they can be, for once an era has passed, it has passed. What stays is the memory. “...looking through a dusty window pane,
the past is something he could see, but not touch”
Poetry speaks straight - Things have passed, that the inevitable has occurred. This was meant to be. That whether you rue in misery, or laugh out loud with a drink, whether you love, or hate, it has no bearing on time. And in the movie, once the years have passed, the music is used again as a tool to symbolise this thought.
The film is not obvious; it does not tell you what you must feel. Instead, it plays along, true to life. The understanding of the film is the understanding of life; it is not obvious, it reveals itself slowly in memory and regret.
As a character says: “You notice things if you pay attention.”
Now do so for this scene:
The music plays; the woman stands and wonders. This scene is the first time we listen to the theme. And for the first time things are slow. Till now they were brisk, everybody was talking briskly, the scenes were shorter, lots of action and movement, lots of manners and smiles. And like I mentioned above, this is time for reflection, “whilst the world is busy outside, what speaketh you of the seeds within?”