2046 Movie Review

Watching 2046 made me think of a book I’m reading. It’s a writing book called Bird by Bird and one of the writing principles it frequently refers to (as do many other books on writing) is how characters need space to grow the same way dogs and horses do. An author can lay out the most precise, detailed plot outline but if her characters resist their prescribed paths then their story will ring false. If an author can allow her characters to make their own decisions and the plot tags along for the ride, then every word and detail will add to the story’s natural depth and richness.

The Asian Clark Gable doesn't give a damn

I get the feeling that 2046 director and screenwriter Kar Wai Wong read the same book I did, or one very much like it. Because 2046 is nothing if not a collection of characters -- characters so fully realized that, whether they are on the screen for two hours or two minutes, watching a sliver of their lives gives the impression that once the film ends, their lives will still go on.

Much of this pervading sense of authenticity must be credited to Kar Wai Wong’s habit of filming without detailed scripts. Male lead Tony Leung, dubbed the “Asian Clark Gable,” describes acting sans script as “demanding” but also notes how “it keeps me from thinking and allows me to just be in my character.” His powerful performance, smoothly flowing from light-hearted to ruthlessly arrogant and everywhere in between, reflects the truth of his words.

Previously I described 2046 as “an emotional gauntlet with a Chinese/Japanese pseudo sci-fi twist.” I’m not sure if this description makes much sense, but I refuse to describe the story in any more detail. This isn’t because I’m being cruel or a tease but I think you will better enjoy this film with an open mind.

Ziyi Zhang, like the Pillsbury Doughboy, enjoys a good tummy rub

Keeping an open mind will also help you keep perspective. Kristen of The Critical Lass commented that the film left her with impressions of colors and moods rather than memories of plot or character and I can see where she is coming from. This is a film that forces you to experience some very strong emotions and it will leave some equally strong impressions on you, many of them emotionally taxing. Additionally, you will want to yell at the characters many, many times. They may be acting true to themselves (and trust me, this is a good thing), but watching them may drive you a little bit crazy.

If I haven't made this clear yet, 2046 isn’t for everyone. It is introspective in the extreme and what it lacks in bombs and explosions it more than compensates in regret and tears. There are also periods of tenderness and even happiness, but no more then you would expect of troubled characters given the freedom to live out their own troubled lives.


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Definitely sounds intriguing enough to rent on dvd

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april - I agree!

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