Everyone who goes to 2046 has the same intention, they want to recapture lost memories.
Because in 2046 nothing ever changes. But, nobody knows if that is true or not because no-one has ever come back.
So begins Wong Kar-Wai‘s movie 2046. The start portrays 2046 as a magical/fantastical place, where everyone goes to in search of lost memories but never return; except one man. He gives vague reasons as to why he returned and is on the train back (the start is like a science fiction movie). The narrative then shifts to the protagonist living in Hong Kong in the 60’s. He has just returned from Singapore and is starting as a journalist here (the movie is like a non-linear sequel to Wong Kar Wai’s earlier movie In the Mood for Love). He rents a room in a hotel where he spent some time before he left for Singapore and wants the same room as before. But the room is under renovation and so the owner offers the adjacent room and he accepts.
The adjacent room gets renovated after a while, but the protagonist has settled in his new room and doesn’t want to move into the room he originally wanted, the one that held a special place for him, a room numbered 2046. The rest of the movie explores the relationships between the protagonist and the serial occupants of the room 2046. The first is the owner’s daughter who is in love with a Japanese man. The father doesn’t approve of the relationship and the lover returns to Japan. The next occupant is a girl who works in a club, who initially starts out being platonic friends and ends up falling in love. The protagonist refuses to get into a relationship with her. After she leaves, the owner’s daughter returns, depressed after what it seems to have had broken up with her Japanese boyfriend. The protagonist finds that she’s interested in martial arts stories and makes her his assistant, writing stories for the newspaper. It is now that he gets an idea of writing a science fiction story about a place where everyone goes to recapture their lost memories. They even decide to name it 2047 after the room number of the protagonist. Eventually, he develops feelings for her but she doesn’t respond. After a while, she leaves for Japan and hears that she got engaged to her Japanese boyfriend.
The protagonist is reminded of a past lover in Singapore who helped him recover the money he lost in gambling. He thinks back to all his past relationships and makes them all characters in his science fiction story with him as the guy who returned from 2046. The story is told in a very non-linear fashion with the science fiction segments interspersing the actual storyline and a flashback to the time the protagonist was living in Singapore. There are several references to the earlier movie In the Mood for Love but this can be watched on its own too. The movie is a bit slow moving but the pace is well suited to the story. The cinematography is excellent and the dialogues even more so. The parallels between the protagonist’s own relationships with the women around him, who happen to share the same room, 2046 and the way it is used as the object of metaphor in the science fiction story is simply a brilliant piece of work by the director. In the end, despite so many women falling for him, and he too falling for a few, the protagonist walks away from it all. The movie doesn’t show where he goes. Has he finally returned from 2046? What would become of him? Will he change? Or remain the same? There are several unanswered questions… but as a movie, it’s sheer poetry.