MCN Columnists
Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

TIFF Review: Three

One thing about Tom Tykwer: He always makes exactly the kind of film he wants to make, down to the smallest detail. His latest film, Three, explores ideas around relationships, love, sex and sexuality through a tale of a long-time couple, Simon (Sebastian Schipper) and Hanna (Sophie Rois), who have fit together comfortably for so many years, know each other so well, that probably neither they nor any of their friends can imagine them not being together.

At the same time, though, they’ve reached a bit of a crux in their relationship where they’ve grown, perhaps, a little bored with each other; they’ve reached that stage of togetherness where you tend to take each other for granted, and resent, perhaps, the rut you’ve mutally fallen into. You know how it is.

Enter Adam (Devid Striesow), handsome head of a medical research company exploring stem cell research, who unknowingly enters relationships with both Hanna and Simon, without knowing that the two of them know and are already in a relationship with each other. Adam lives with almost monastic simplicity; his flat is barren and anonymously decorated, packing boxes are here and there — in short, his flat bears no mark of the individual person who inhabits its walls. And until he meets Simon and Hanna, his sexual relationships have much the same impersonal tone.

As Simon and Hanna get entwined with Adam, though, they also find that they have renewed interest in each other as well. The mutual secret they’re keeping from each other, though, can’t help but ultimately tear things apart. That’s pretty much the story, as it spirals toward what you know must be the inevitable.

Tykwer uses the triumverate of these relationships – Hanna and Simon, Simon and Adam, Adam and Hanna, as a lens through which to examine what it means to be in love with someone, what defines the boundaries of our relationships with each other. We generally accept the idea of love as something that must properly exist only within the confines of relating one person to another; we think that it’s possible to know another person, when in truth, no matter how many years a couple has been together, how well they may think they know each other, there will always be secret places where each of them hide away bits and pieces of knowledge that they want to keep to themselves.

Hanna and Simon love each other, but they’ve grown bored and disconnected, as couples often do. What do you do when that happens — when your partner is kind and warm-hearted, and hasn’t done anything in particular to merit your feelings of discontent, when your relationship has become too much the same-old, same-old, while at the same time it feels not at all like it did when it was new?

Do you can leave the relationship for something different and fresh and exciting, knowing that, more than likely, eventually the newness will wear off the greener grass you sought and you’re once again bored with where you are? Do you use an illicit affair to channel a sense of excitement, adventure and independence in yourself that might perhaps rekindle feelings for your long-term partner? Or do you try to find a way to have it all?

Tykwer seems to be questioning here what it means to be faithful to another person, exploring the societal boundaries that tell us how intimate our relationships outside of the part of us that belongs to “the couple” can appropriately, realistically or morally be. Tykwer seems to be very much examining the concept of fluidity within relationships, the ebb and flow of our feelings, and asking frankly through the love triangle of Adam, Hanna and Simon: isn’t it possible for us to love more than one person? And who defines the rules that determine whether or not that is okay?

Structurally, Tykwer brings to the film a unique vision that’s mildly indicative of a return to his Run Lola Run form, while also tossing in some new tricks and visual artistry. Three is playful, fun, and occasionally somewhat shocking, an arthouse film if ever there was one that fit that term.

Which is not to say it won’t play well to certain audiences; I found myself completely engaged not only the the lives and loves of Hanna, Simon and Adam, but in the way in which Tykwer presents his story. He’s been one of my favorite directors for years, and its delightful to see him back with this artistic, smartly put together, free-flowing exploration of love and relationships.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon