MOVIE REVIEW: 3

October 21, 2011

German writer/director Tom Tykwer made a huge splash in the arthouse scene in 1998 with his 81-minute thrill ride, Lola Rennt (English: Run Lola Run).  Employing fast cuts, a pounding soundtrack, smashmouth editing and a simple story that only gets more outrageous due to its peripheral characters, Lola Rennt established Tykwer as one of Germany’s most original up-and-coming directors.  After 13 years and amassing a decent collection of films ranging from historical dramas to mainstream Hollywood espionage thrillers, Tykwer brings it back to the German arthouse with 3, a stylish and brooding examination of humanism and love, in whatever form it takes.

Usually, love stories follow a very similar track: boy meets girl, boy wins girl, boy loses girl, boy does something outrageous to get girl back, and happily ever after begins.  Tykwer shifts this trope about a mile off-center and gives us a different track:  Adam meets Hanna, whose 20-year relationship has hit a rut; Adam wins Hanna; then Adam meets Simon, who’s the other half of that 20-year relationship… and that’s when the starting gun goes off and 3 takes a mighty detour from every “forbidden love” story you’ve ever read or seen.  However, everything plays out naturally, albeit a little predictably.  I found myself saying the words that each character would wind up saying after a lengthy dialogue beat, but that’s not to say that it’s not a pleasant surprise.  On the contrary – the words that I predicted were exactly the opposite of what one would expect in a movie like this.

In Tykwer’s world, we’re all just trying to carve out a piece of love for ourselves, however small or fleeting it may be.  It’s a common theme in all of his self-penned movies, from Lola Rennt to The Princess and the Warrior to Perfume: The Story of a Murderer – Tykwer pushes his characters to their extremes for their love, no matter how misguided or ill-advised.  In 3, Tykwer goes against every traditional relationship instinct and takes a devil’s advocate position, making 3 a lightly uncomfortable movie to watch.  The discomfort is due to the decisions made by each character; it’s a taut game of cat-and-mouse each person has to play, with intersections and near-misses happening more and more until the film comes to a gigantic emotional and biological head.

3 is a very urgent movie, with scenes intercutting and overlapping each other, providing a sense of confusion and incoherence when necessary.  Abrupt sound edits accompanying equally jarring scene transitions throw your balance off just enough to unsettle you for the next sequence.  However, it’s the film’s quieter moments that give the viewer the real meat: the performances by Sophie Rois (Hanna), Sebastian Schipper (Simon), and Devid Striesow (Adam).  In the film’s best performance, Schipper gives Simon a lovely vulnerability as he’s diagnosed with testicular cancer in the opening scenes (the surgery of which is shown in graphic detail – be warned), which then transforms to confident machismo as his recovery – and his relationship with Adam – progresses.  All other characters are merely obstacles in the way of their somewhat selfish relationships with each other, with old passions reignited and new sparks creating fires too big to extinguish.

There are no morals here, no lesson to be learned; 3 is just an examination of human interaction and the means by which we achieve it.  Tykwer leaves the preaching and judging out of 3, lending a feeling of simplicity while telling a very emotionally complex story.  As a visual stylist, Tykwer has grown since the rapturous epileptic seizure that was Lola Rennt; with 3, he forgoes pop and flash, giving us a dense, lean film to mull over and chew on long after we leave the theater.

FINAL GRADE:  B+

Reel Film News Movie Review by Eddie Pasa

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