Erik Kersting

Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Balcerzak, Scott

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of English


Motion pictures--Study and teaching


This study considers how Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-wai's use of music reinforces a transnational relationship between film and audience. The director's employment of preexisting music offers a compelling view into the psyche of his female characters and privileges their subjectivies, even when male protagonists have narrative supremacy. Through this lens of transnationalism and gendered subjectivity, this thesis examines five of Wong's best-known films, looking at how they employ music in distinctive ways. As Tears Go By (1988) displays the beginnings of Wong's "MTV aesthetic," and shows his unique use of music can be seen even in his earliest work. Wong's use of music in Chungking Express (1994) is the centerpiece of this study, illustrating how music functions as an extension of female voice and how gendered subjectivity is given primacy through music, subverting and transforming the film's narrative and focus. In an interesting gendered variation, Happy Together (1997) uses music to communicate the dysfunctions of a queer relationship and express the dissonance of two gay male characters hopelessly in love. In the Mood for Love (2000) goes beyond music signifying a single character's subjectivity, and expresses the shared subtle emotions of a heteronormative couple. Finally, 2046 (2004), Wong's postmodern epic, presents a narrative that is fractured and layered; similarly, the music is layered, complicated, and fractured, yet still narratively significant and communicating characters' subjectivity.


Advisors: Scott Balcerzak.||Committee members: Joe Bonomo; Mark Van Wienen.||Includes bibliographical references.


52 pages




Northern Illinois University

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