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In the Mood for Love – film review

Daylight changes from moment to moment; the advantage of artificial light is that it stays the same. Cinematographer Christopher Doyle (b.1952) recommended studying the ‘beauty of artificial light on people’s faces’ and one way to do this is to watch his film In the Mood for Love (Dir. Wong Kar-Wai, 2000).

I understand why Doyle would be considered ‘something of a legend’ in Asia. The film is shot entirely in artificial light – either indoors during the day or outside at night. From a cinematographic perspective, things I noted were:

  • Use of visual lead-ins to main subjects, including diagonals of walls, perspectives of desks and framing using verticals. These provided a clear direction for the eye, making the film very easy on the eye.
  • High contrast images, with large areas of darkness off-setting the areas of light of the main subjects, drawing the eye to them.
  • Use of silhouette for subjects walking into or out of scenes, against the contrasted light and shade of the scene.
  • Most importantly, the rich well-balanced colours (particularly in the dresses of the ladies and natural skin-tones) despite the artificial light.
  • The light and shadow across subject’s faces added to the intensity of the film’s story (love and deceit).

After watching the film, I decided to learn more about the technicalities of achieving colour-balance under artificial light – something I’d previously left the the camera’s auto-white balance, and adjusted in Lightroom (using raw file).

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