A Look at the Soundtracks Behind Wong Kar Wai

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ou might have heard of Wong Kar Wai as a movie director with his unique style. The scenery in his movies is rich in saturated tones and he is obsessed with cutaways that jump between the real and pure fantasy.

Besides the eloquent camerawork, he is also a master of the film soundtrack. These songs, sometimes underrated by the audience, leak the hidden emotions in his stories.

“Dreamlover” in Chungking Express

Chungking Express talks about stories of two lovesick Hong Kong policemen. Faye Wong plays an important character, also named Faye, in the film, a bar worker who falls in love with policeman ‘663’. However, ‘663’ is still haunted by the loss of his girlfriend, a flight attendant. Faye stays around him secretly, almost like a little girl – even sneaking into his flat, trying to change his life.

In fact, Faye Wong is also a famous singer in real life. “Dreamlover”, the first song in the film’s soundtrack, is her Cantonese cover of “Dreams” by The Cranberries. The song is enjoyable with her ethereal singing, and the lyrics really tell the story behind. It is about how this girl is struck by the one who “walks out of a dream and into her heart”, depicting a feeling that is too real to be a dream.

“Dust to Dust” in Ashes of Time

1994 is said to be a special year for Wong Kar Wai, as another of his classic films Ashes of Time came out in the same year as Chungking Express. The figures in the film are originally from Jin Yong’s novel The Legend of the Condor Heroes, which is one of most adapted pieces of literature in China. Though Wong Kar Wai borrowed the frame of the story, he reminds the audience that these heroes, like ordinary people, are also upset by love and hatred and suffered from their own obsessions.

When talking about the soundtrack of Ashes of Time, “Dust to Dust” might not be the first song that you think of. However, as the title tells, it illustrates the ultimate theme of the movie: no matter what you have got or have lost, at the end of the life, everything turns into the ashes of time.

“The Killer’s Death” in Fallen Angels

This movie has been described as the sequel to Chungking Forest. As the name of the movie suggests, it is about a group of characters who feel marginalised in their lives. Some people might say they are just narcissists living in their own world.

The director deliberately uses strong colours with handheld camera work. It is noticeable that there is comparison between the loneliness and hope of these ‘fallen angels’. However, even if they find temporary comfort through their extreme means, it is followed up by deeper isolation. “The Killer’s Death”, with its psychedelic melody, highlights the distorted world by the wide-angle lens in the film.

Some say that Wong Kar Wai is good at creating an atmosphere of illusion in his movies, in which music plays a great part. The soundtracks that he carefully curates are worth appreciating on their own ground.