It is a story of a man and woman living in adjacent quarters who discover that their spouses are having an affair with each other. Jarred with this discovery and loneliness, they try to playact the relationship of the other couple, to understand the relationship, and become attached to each other.
It is a sad and dark movie, exceptional in its technique and appears very ethereal, as both characters look untouchable, going on with their lonely routines. Even when they begin to talk to each other, their conversation is like the conversation in Last year at Marienbad, disjointed and repetitive. In a few places, through repetitive scenes, the fleetingness becomes more pronounced and depressive.
What I loved about the movie is the idea of playacting. The movie tries to put the two characters at superior moral grounds to their spouses – since they are the ones abandoned, and are still trying to stay loyal to their marriages. However, the whole idea of play-acting, meeting in secret, hiding in a room, etc is very sinister, and not as innocent as it appears from looking at both of them. And I eventually was puzzled by this need for repression and the obligation to stay committed to their marriages which were already void. Why would you stay tied to a communion where the other half has flown away, other than to prove a point and appear superior. Which, to me, is more vulgar than following instincts.
The movie is quite full of art, specially supported by its background score. It is artful in the use of different camera angles, a diffusing light, repetition of sequences, and putting together of different shots together to make it appear like one scene (which is one thing I had really liked about Marienbad – I think Wong Kar Wai must have been inspired by the French movie, though I did not come across any mention of this fact)
It was however the last scene of the movie that really made it my favorite and is responsible for the ‘moved’ bit – when the man goes and buries his secrets in a hole in some ruins of Cambodia. He looks so incredibly lonely and isolated in that scene, and you just feel sorry for all the waste.
I think moral uprightness is highly overrated.