DirkH’s review published on Letterboxd:
What is the purpose of art? A short and simple question with a multitude of answers, all correct. It depends on so many things, but for me, art is always about the personal response. Does it resonate, does it cause something to happen within you or is it something that appeals the intellect. It can be as basic as sheer enjoyment to deep, soul stirring ruminations. I need this kind of response, I look for it and if it's there I let it wash over me, if it isn't I often grow bitter and angry or even worse, indifferent.
That In the Mood for Love is a masterful piece of art, of that I have no doubt. It has done something not many films have been able to do, namely provoke such an emotional response from me that I actually felt a bit shell shocked. While watching the credits role, a deep sense of longing rushed over me. A longing for human connection, to get rid of this melancholy feeling of loneliness and regret. Only a true work of art can achieve that.
This is a story about two people thrust towards each other by the betrayal of others. Their connection is one of mutual misery and in that unfortunate connection they find each other. The tragedy lies in that they are unable to truly reach out to each other because of fear, social restraints and the tangible pressure of placing your heart in the hands of another. It at points was insufferable to watch, to see that longing go unanswered, to see them skirting around each other, their growing love like a barrier between them.
The film is a treat to all the senses. It looks absolutely stunning, with sumptuous cinematography, beautiful colours and a great attention to detail to transport us to the sixties. The music is perhaps the component in this cocktail of cinematic beauty that lifts it to another plane of existence. It enhances the feel of melancholy so strongly, it is hard to envision the film ever reaching that effect without it. There are scenes where nothing happens other than our female protagonist walking by in slow motion, accompanied by beautiful music, giving it a sense of choreography akin to a scene from a ballet performance.
The two central performances are absolutely stunning. They are understated, subtle, engaging and real. They need to be. They cannot be anything else as otherwise this story simply cannot be told. There is one scene where they pretend to say goodbye to each other for good. Every actor should watch that scene to see what it means to 'not act' when acting. Perhaps one of the most emotionally resounding scenes ever filmed.
This film felt like a dream half remembered, of a life I half lived once upon a time. It has a somewhat fragmented narrative that gives it its dream like qualities and which for me enhanced the immersiveness of the experience. I can only hope this film will have the same effect on you. I know I'll relish in the experience of what it did for me and will hold on to it fervently for as long as I can.