Weston Adam’s review published on Letterboxd:
2046 seems to be a film about desire, and the inability to fulfil that desire, amidst a slew of other seemingly related themes. As such the scene where the traveler interacts with the android seems metonymic in relation. As we enter the scene through a peep hole of obscured warm lights, which gives us the explicit feeling of entering the ‘internal’ of a human and as such we enter the emotional and personalized ‘experiential’ lives of those within, we hear the prior music fade out abruptly to a droning ambient industrial hum, and although the background is in-keeping with the warm rendered warm by the colors and radiance, we feel the relationship of the noise to that of the android, whose outfit is made up of cool colors (which immediately relate the android to the hum.) The scene is established as an over the shoulder shot on the side of the traveler, framing the android as the object maintained in the middle of the screen. This again establishes desire as related from the traveler projected upon the android. We then get the voice over of the traveler habitually repeating “I have a secret to tell you. Leave with me.” Each time that he says this, the android turns away from him. After this transpires a few times, we switch narration and enter a conversation between the traveler and a man who tells him that the androids on board become delayed in response after having worked too much. As we are told this, classical music plays over top of the industrial hum, and we pay witness to a tracking shot of the android in a hallway lit by cold color who walks forward only to stop abruptly. This happens twice, and seems to be an internal inside of an internal, showing the inability for the android to arrive at desired emotive states, which follows the narration of the android delayed emotional response. This reveals the secret of the android, which is the non-response, as an absence of desire, wherein we find emotion ‘foreign’ to her, and as it cannot be grasped by her, it too cannot be grasped by the traveler, of whom it is his desire. We are then given to a panning shot which uses a lot of the architecture of the train to obscure her, wherein she oddly tries to grasp at the emotions, and then lastly to a still close-up showing half of her face, stoic, and yet a tear drops from the eye obscured to us. Finally, the sequence closes by means of the android in what appears to be a sleeping station, again with cold colors, where she lay and turn the lights off, which the camera pans around in, and finally is rendered slow: delayed, as the android stares back at us, and the voice over tells us: “you should just give up.” This brings us fully back to the absence of desire/emotion – we stare at her, and she appears to stare back, but all that is there is cold machinery, completely foreign to us, and the gaze of desire we place upon her. This relates back throughout the ‘objective world’ whereupon the android is the played by same actress of Wang Jin Wen, who in the objective world is broken up by the separation of her and her ex (played by the same Japanese man who plays the traveler) whereupon she holds to the breakup due to disapproval from her father, and despite the boyfriend trying to reconcile the relationship, she remains cold and distant and refuses. Thus, the ‘objective’ is internalized, and as such the desire of Wang Jin Wen is sublimated by her father, and remains foreign to her, while her boyfriend seeks to get back to it by repeatedly showcasing his affection, and longing for her. This is made especially ironic when we learn that the Android apparently loves someone else, and thus relates again back to the ‘objective’ Wang Jin Wen who rejects the advances of Chow Mo-wan, who repeatedly fails to obtain the object of his desire throughout the trilogy of films his character appears in, and whispers away his personal secrets into a crack in architecture, which seems to maintain the overarching thematic element of a transferred desire that can never be actualized. Thus, the secret which is never revealed to us is not ‘hidden’ but rather that which simply does not exist. Thus the scene as metonymic is revealed, and we are back where we started: with a man looking towards a woman, aiming to receive that which cannot exist, by trying to bring it to language.