Six Things Filmmakers Can Learn From Wong Kar-Wai’s Movies
This article is written by Sayantan Mondal and was originally published on Jamuura.com, a platform for independent filmmakers that shares tips, resources & news on the Independent film movement. Follow Jamuura.com to stay updated with the best & latest in the world of filmmaking and Indie films.
Wong Kar-Wai’s movies show a lot of things. They capture urban loneliness, heartbreaks, heartaches, wants, desires and the sadness that accompanies them as the protagonists are struggle with these and the vastness of the modern city.
Let us see how he manages to get inspired, write the stories for his movies, then capture it and how his techniques and ideas can be helpful to filmmakers who have just started learning the craft.
1. Nothing is Insignificant
Take an obscure object like an escalator or a food shack or a bar of a soap. People riding that escalator to save time or finding an agony uncle in a food shack listening to their love woes, Wong Kar-wai’s movies are full of surprises when it comes to such scenes.
He says that unimportant, insignificant things inspire him to weave tales around them, making people who are connected with these things realize how they play an important part in their lives. Here’s a video where he describes his method of storytelling and what inspires him.
2. Let the Images Speak
Chungking Express was the one that brought Wong Kar-Wai to international limelight. Presented in the US by none other than Quentin Tarantino (he is an unabashed fan of Wong Kar-Wai and HK movies) and favourably reviewed by the western critics, Chungking Express has achieved a cult status of sorts.
Here is the opening scene of Chungking Express that captures the mood of the story from frame one.
An opening scene is essential when it comes to making the audience interested in the movie. Do note the change in the colour of the scene as it manages to free itself from the early chaos that it observes through the camera lens.
3. Follow Your Characters
One of Wong Kar-Wai’s greatest cinematic triumphs was In the Mood for Love. This particular scene precisely tells us why. It captures a range of events like desire, loneliness, sadness, apathy in just a few frames. The camera never flinches from its objective.
Wong Kar-Wai presents two humans who are trapped in a groundhog day like scenario where they keep on repeating the same monotonous aspects of their lives, eating from a roadside shack, till one day they discover each other. Here’s a video of the scene. Go through it to understand it better.
4. Don’t Overdo Your Scenes
A linear theme that manages to find itself in most Wong Kar-Wai movies is the reasonable existence of regret and loss. In this scene we observe Takeshi Kaneshiro’s character trying to get over his break-up and hitting it off with Brigitte Lin’s character.
Shot in shades of yellow and red with a melancholic background score, the entire scene manages to illustrate love and loss fabulously without overdoing it.
5. Don’t Be Rigid, Adapt!
Wong Kar-Wai is known for his long shoots and canning stuff that invariably lands up as bonus material. His advice for young filmmakers is to wait and be patient. Filmmaking is a long and complex process and to get the best results one has to often resort to trial and error.
If you search online there are plenty of deleted scenes from his movies. Have a look at this scene from Fallen Angels to understand Wong Kar-Wai’s trademark style, where everything falls in line perfectly.
6. Editing is as Important as the Shooting of Your Film
Wong Kar-Wai feels the editing process is as important as the shooting process. Why? Because it gives the filmmaker a chance to look at his product from a different perspective. Because it gives the filmmaker a chance to polish off parts that he feels are crumpled.
Yes, it is the director’s decision to show what he wants to the audience. He also has to guess what the audience wants to see. Here’s a link to a video where he discusses editing.