The quote by the author Drucker is a prime example of how non-verbal communication is most of the time more important than the actual answer itself. Body language is an essential element of everyday interaction amongst people. Based on simple hand gestures or a flicker of a smile, one can instantly change the syntax or structural meaning of a sentence. This change could turn a negative sentence into a positive outcome. Throughout the history of cinema body language is a tool that is applied to every movie.
Movies by their very nature started of as any elaborate ploy on body language. The silent film era relies on nonverbal communication that is accompanied by visual elements and implanting a specific score in order to suspend disbelief that the audience is sitting an in a dark room watching various shades of light and color onto a screen. The movie In the Mood for Love directed by Kar Wai Wong is a prime example of how the characterization and plot of a movie doesn’t need to revolve around the construction of dialogue between the protagonist and other characters in the movie.
To start off I would like to say the cinematographer Christopher Doyle and Pin Bing Lee did a great job in presenting a somewhat stale plot line into a visual masterpiece. There are many examples, of how the cinematography of this movie enables the audience to visualize the budding of a love that happened out of pain, spite, and loneliness. I would like to analyze the cinematography of a scene in order to bring more clarity to how body language is more important. The first scene I would like to examine is in the first act of the movie. Keep in mind during this scene there is no dialogue just a musical score.
The faces of the two adulteresses remain obscured throughout the scene. Fade from black no picture in your minds eye the wife Su Li-Zhen is in her apartment with her husband while everyone is playing Mahjong. She takes the chair behind her husband and sits there. When she leaves for a brief instance to let another woman by which is the wife of Mr. Chow. Chow then proceeds to take his queue and exit the room looking troubled and deep in thought walks by and slightly grazes Mrs. Li-Zhen. Li-Zhen then goes to sit down next to her husband and puts her arm on his shoulder.
This scene is jam-packed full of visual elements that make this scene very compelling and drives the movie forward with such palpable tension. First, the wife of Mr. Chow is dressed in a vibrant red dress that really pops out from all the dull whites and browns that are present in on the screen. This vibrancy of color and by the nature of all the skin that is revealed above her neck alludes to a characterization that is more sexual, more “desirable” in comparison to Mrs. Li-Zhen. She is wearing a dull white dressed that is cut in a more traditional and plain way.
By the nature of the fabric and patterns on the dress it looks like she is blending in more than standing out. This direct comparison is between the mise en scene of the costuming foreshadows that the wife Mrs. Li-Zhen will become less desirable over time and this will present the problem of some kind of cheating. Also during this scene the very body language present between the two women towards Mr. Li-Zhen is very different. The wife of this man is sitting behind her husband she seems reluctant in showing her affections towards him.
She doesn’t really act like they are together she only looks over his shoulder. The camera movement at this scene is very important when the wife walks into the room the camera pans out back to the doorway. Then, The adulteress wife walks from off the screen through the doorway. At this point the camera pans in. The woman in red then proceeds to walk in between the married couple sitting down, and drapes her arms across Mr. Chows back. Mrs. Li-Zhen gets up puts on an insincere smile and backs against the wall. The woman in red seems to push the faithful wife away.
This scene is a metaphor down to a tee of what is happening to the Li-Zhen and Chows relationship. The initial distance between the first married couple shows that there is some discontent or rift between them. This body language is very subtle but its possible to see that they aren’t not entirely happy with each other. It’s not until she has her back against a wall and sees the discontent on Mr. Chow’s face do you really see the wife really warm up to her husband. The camera movement during this scene further supports my points on the relationship between the two couples.
When the camera pans out it is signifying that even though Mrs. Li-Zhen is getting closer in reality she is quite distant from her husband. This distance is growing and impossible to reverse in this instance. This distance created by turning the shot from a medium, shot to a wide angle. Which sets up the next camera movement where Mrs. Chow comes from off the screen and the camera moves in and follows her as she makes her way towards MR. Li-Zhen. This shows that the there is a shift of desire going from the faithful wife to the new fling.
This sexual shift is subtle but very evident once the adulteress pushes the faithful wife. The score during this scene is also very prominent during the entire movie. It is present every time we she a slight shift of the relationship status between the two couples. At first the music indicates that the physical, mental, and sexual attraction between the original couple is shifts towards a more negative outcome. During this scene the music is indicating that the once happy couples are now beginning to shift towards separation.
The music cues as Mrs. Li-Zhen walks into the shot from off the screen. The tone and tempo of this piece directly correlates to the overall plot line of the film, and is key to this scene as well. The tone of the piece is a somber one; very little percussion is used in the score. There is a very prominent violin that is playing over other various strings. The tempo of this particular piece starts with slow staccato or “plucky strings” they start slow and there is able time between the notes to hears brief instance of silent.
Then piece revs up to have a very mellow violin playing on top. The use of the tone in the piece reflects on the mood of the entire film and distress of the two that are faithful initially. The tempo of this piece shows that at first everything stress there is some kind of hidden element going on and then it quickens. The heartbreak comes, and now they have to live with it. As the movie progresses however the music becomes an indicator that new found couple having difficultly letting go, but they are making progress towards becoming whole again.
When talking about this scene in particular the use of this music directly correlates to the action of what is going on in the scene. At the beginning of the piece the wife is walking into the room. This plucky string part signifies that there will be tension going on between Mrs. Li-Zhen and her husband. The violin is cued in as the camera movement stops and the adulteress wife walks onto the screen. The music is indicating that this woman spells trouble and she is bringing to the movie. Also, as the violin is playing the husband walks out of the room right after a brief pause between the violins solo.
You hear a few plucks and silence of the violin at this instance. The silence of the violin signifies that he is not a problem but instead also in trouble from what is happening around him. He exits and the film cuts to the Li-Zhens being more affectionate, yet the sad music is still playing. This foreshadows that no matter what the relationship between these two couples is doomed even though the wife either remains ignorant or refuses to let go. At, which we find out later in the movie she tries to resist letting go the man she married because she cares so deeply for him.
For example the original faithful protagonists are eating at a restaurant and both are trying to emulate the other’s old significant other. This movie very eloquently uses subtle metaphor through body language. The visual elements and the musical score help to strengthen the lack of dialogue in order to tell this story in a more compelling way. Body language is a necessary tool to understand in order to have a more in depth understanding of the characterization of the actors in well done films. Without strong body language is possible to sends confusing signals to everyone around you whether it be in the movies or in real life.
Courtney from Study Moose
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