2046 is a film by Hong Kong director Wong Kar Wai that indirectly explores his response to the return of Hong Kong to China following British administration. It forms the final part of a loose trilogy, featuring some of the characters that previously appeared in the Wong Kar Wai films Days of Being Wild and In The Mood For Love. The film is largely set in 1960s Hong Kong and in the futuristic fictional world created by the main character, writer Chow Mo Wan (Tony Leung), and does not mention the handover directly, instead exploring the issues of a changing world, memory and nostalgia through his romantic relationships. The film also stars Faye Wong, Zhang Ziyi, Gong Li and Takuya Kimura.
2046 has a non-linear structure. The scenes narrating the relations of Chow Mo Wan to the women in his life are told through flashbacks during the 1960s. The secondary plot of the story is the futuristic novels written by Chow, which are about a train heading to the year 2046. In this novel, people board a mysterious train that travels to 2046 because it is rumoured that in that year, nothing ever changes; however nobody is ever certain of the truth of this, because nobody has ever come back.
In Chow's first novel about this, which he writes during the Hong Kong riots in 1967, people are leaving for 2046 because they are in a time of conflict and want to go to a place where nothing ever changes. In the second, he explores what happens when a character tries to leave this place.
The film 2046 draws together many themes and characters that had previously appeared in Wong Kar Wai's oeuvre. It also focuses on the administrative handover of Hong Kong to China from the UK in 1997. Part of the terms of the handover involved keeping the legal and administrative systems of Hong Kong for fifty years. The year 2046 is the last year this will apply. This film explores the director's response to the question: could anyone ever promise that nothing will change?
The number 2046 also appeared in the previous film In The Mood For Love as the number of a hotel room occupied by Chow Mo Wan (the central character of this film). Maggie Cheung briefly appears in 2046 as Chow's lost love from the earlier film.
Over the closing credits of film, multilingual news clips discussing the handover of Hong Kong to China; the promise that "nothing would change for fifty years" can be heard over the film's main five-note theme.
Music Score and Musical References
The original music featured in this film was composed and arranged by Shigeru Umebayashi and performed by the London Symphony Orchestra. The five note theme recurs in several variations: with percussion, as a rumba, and as a polonaise.
The film soundtrack also includes several songs which appeared in other films or from the 1960s. These musical references identify the characters and their place in the non-linear narrative.
Perfidia by Xavier Cugat represents the character of Mimi / Lulu, as it also did when she previously appeared in Days of Being Wild.
Siboney by Connie Francis represents Bai Ling.
Dark Chariot and Sisyphos at Work by Peer Raben represent the relationship between Chow and Bai Ling, as well as being the background to the scenes of him going home in a taxi.
Casta Diva from the opera Norma, sung by Angela Gheorghieu, features as a song highlighting the relationship between Jing Wen and her father, the hotel owner. An opera lover, Jing Wen's father plays Casta Diva on very loud to conceal the arguments he has with daughter over her love affair.
Adagio by Secret Garden represents the romance between Jing Wen and her boyfriend, as well as the androids that the same actors portray in the fictional 2046 train.
The Christmas Song performed by Nat King Cole and The Nat King Cole Trio, plays during Christmas time in the film, as also appearing in the other films of the trilogy Days of Being Wild and In The Mood For Love.