Time, Space, and Love: Eternal Themes in Wong Kar-Wai Essay

Submitted By Flora-Dou
Words: 987
Pages: 4

Flora Dou
Chungking Express (Wong Kar-wai, 1994)
Work sheet#7

Time, space and love are the eternal themes in Wong Kar-Wai’s films. Time in his films tends to be jumbling and space is inclined to split into pieces and to be curved by the effect of short focal length." Space in the film is an internal world symbolised by the claustrophobic setting of Chungking Mansion, while time is an exernal near-abstract world represented by clocks but actualised by the expiry dates on food cans and mock boarding passes drawn on serviettes. (Teo ) " In Chungking Express, Wong Kar-Wai shows us a city which consists of emptiness, recklessness and passion. The films emerge different visual and sonic feasts to the audience in an untraditional way, splitting the time and space, breaking them apart and rebuilding them in an extreme way. Teo aruges that "The film's worldwide popularity suggests that audiences who have never been to Hong Kong can legitimately view its play with space and time as an inseparable element of Wong's post-modern style."
From the very beginning of Chungking Express, Wong and his cinematographers—Andrew Lau and Christopher Doyle, find ways to visually represent temporal distortion. The opening sequence employs an unusual stutter-step effect. The most striking moment occurs when Cop 223 is running after a suspect, crossing the screen from left to right: He’s in focus, but the background isn’t, and the result is that he races past a series of neon streaks, creating the impression that he’s somehow been dislodged from his surroundings—not in space, but in time. There's a shot which does something similar: in the scene where cop 633 is drinking a cup of coffee and Faye is watching him, the two characters are in slow motion, while pedestrians walk past them in the foreground at exaggerated time-lapse speed.
In Chungking Express, the transiency of the objects and images reveals the nature that everything changes in time. The can of pineapple that cop 233 was collecting is an object of fast consumption and the coming of the expiry date is something that no one can stop. In 233's monologue, he says, "everything has an expiration date. I wish my memory would never expire. If there must be an expiration date, I hope it's in 10 thousand years." After the flight attendant leaves Cop 633, Faye made many changes to his apartment. However, 633 is not surprised at the new objects, explaining them away as the result of a change in his emotional state. His failure of noticing or refusing to admit the change of his apartment, which assumes that change, is natural.
Most of Wong Kar-Wai’s films focus on the time of present, lack of the narrative of past and future which cause the incoherence of time. Since the sequence of time has been damaged, the present experience of the characters disengages from the entirety. The disjunction of the individual from the present and from his own experience is revealed in systematically “discordant gestures” (Martinez 1997).
The characters in Wong Kar Wai’s films move incessantly. Especially in Chungking Express, characters are always in motion and never in action. Cop 233 called his ex-girlfriend for a month since they broke up and starts to collect the cans of pineapple, but he never tried to look for her in person. The blonde wigged woman deals drug with a group of Indian is always on the run. However their movements get them nowhere. It seems that they are trapped in the same space. According to Stephen, Wong’s initially inspiration for Chungking Express was a short story named “On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning ” by the Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami. Wong also used chance encounter as a motif in his film. He cuts to a shot…