Wong Kar Wai’s Fallen Angels (1995) is one of his most underrated films. Raw and grainy, in its literal and figurative sense, it provides an insight into the beginnings of a mind that gave us the smooth and sentimental In The Mood For Love (2001). The maturity with which the latter film dealt with the emotion of longing and heartache came from a far more aggressive and painful portrayal of the same in the earlier movie, and I believe this transition is proof that artistic trademarks can be reborn again and again.
Featuring the metallic and tattered city of Hong Kong, jet black tattoos, shiny neon, and glittering roads, with beams of light cutting through the night sets the backdrop for a true depiction of longing in a place of excess. A companion piece to Chungking Express, it features three interwoven stories all about characters expressing their desires for things within themselves, outside themselves, for themselves, from themselves, and the toughest of all – from the rest of the world. The world of Fallen Angels is a cruel and painful place were unfulfilled desires eat you up from within and living in a constant cycle of stimulus is all that the inhabitants of that world ever learned.
This is far from just not getting what you want, or not being satisfied with one has, but dealing with the desire for needs in a place where you can already always get what you want, because the wants are limited to quick fixes, temporary happiness, fast indulgences, etc. The need for love, passion, permanence and other clichés remain the sole purpose of existence, but the way the wayward characters drive their existence is far removed from the reality of their world. They struggle and introspect reach out to each other, and fail at that too.
Longing is about failures of sorts. The failure of not being able to occupy or create a space, the failure of not being where you think you belong, the failure of being incomplete. But it is also a meditation on being able to differentiate between needs and wants, good spaces and bad spaces, comfort zones and greener grass, and being able to see what drives you as a person, and how intensely can it drive you towards something. Fallen Angels asks you to take a peek into the minds of regular people in an insomniac city waiting for things yet to come.
AUTHOR: NIVEDITA NAIR
Nivedita is studying Film and Political Science.