Home Video Hovel- 3
After seeing Tom Tykwer’s 3, I jokingly wondered if sensitive Europeans saw this and sighed, “this is why they hate us.” Granted, that joke only really works from an American perspective (most people think of themselves as members of a nation rather than a continent), and by and large I’m game for what Tykwer (pronounced Tick-ver) is selling, but his pitch is so self-satisfied that he takes what could have been a meditation on the fluid nature of sexuality and removes from it all human conflict and entanglements, making more a meditation on how progressive-you-guys Tykwer is for totally going there.
Simon (Sebastian Schipper) and Hanna (Sophie Rois) have been together for twenty years, but have yet to get married. Soon after the start of the film, Simon’s mother is diagnosed with terminal cancer, and she commits suicide soon after. Almost immediately after that, Simon is diagnosed with testicular cancer. And all of this is before we really get to the meat of the film, as it were. The title references an affair each of them separately and unknowingly have with the same man, Adam (Devid Striesow), who in turn has no idea that they’re in a relationship. Intrigue!
After that, it just sort of lies there. Tykwer goes through the usual routine of the “affair movie” – the sneaking around, the longing, the distance created in the relationship – but seems so tickled by his premise that he feels no need to go deeper. I mean, after all, they’re both hiding the same man. Naturally, Simon has a bit more of a stake in the secret as he has no history of homosexuality, but before long Hanna becomes pregnant, and there’s a bit of uncertainty regarding to whom the kid will belong. Rois gets some good material to work with here, but a scene-and-a-half towards the end does not a compelling drama make.
And I’d be fine with a film of this nature not being terribly compelling as drama, but it’s not exactly art, either. Tykwer fills the hole with sex scenes shot as Zack Snyder might endeavor (and, thinking back on 300 and Watchmen, kind of did) and a lot of neat-o editing tricks. Chief among them is a recurring motif of having several frames onscreen, each showing a different scene, and floating about the larger frame, which towards the end actually starts to take on, you know, some significance (everything is interconnected yet separate and so confusing!), but might’ve had more impact if he hadn’t used the same device half a dozen times already without the thematic heft. After awhile, it gets to be that you luck into a rich aesthetic.
The whole thing builds to a fairly predictable conclusion, which would’ve been fine had Tykwer not half-heartily introduced any other possibility. 3 is like a very rich desert – it gets to its point quickly, and after ten minutes you’ve had enough and are ready for a long nap.