Tom Tykwer has carved out one of the most diverse careers in European cinema. From the whirlwind of his breakout film “Run Lola Run” to the art house chill of “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer” to the slickness of his transnational thriller “The International,” Tykwer has brought polish and new ideas to every film. With “Three” he makes another bold leap into the realm of fluid sexuality.
The film begins at the beach, where Hanna (Sophie Rois) and Simon (Sebastion Schipper) engage in a scene of comically absurd miscommunication. He returns from the sea wanting to tell his partner about having just nearly drowned. She is so absorbed in her book that its fiction obscures his reality altogether. She either doesnât hear him of doesnât care to; itâs the middle of a beautiful, but far from perfect relationship.
Pushing the story forward in a playful, intellectual style, Tykwer explores what happens to this educated, middle-aged Berlin couple as their disconnection grows. At a scholarly lecture, Hanna finds herself daydreaming about sex acts in Jeff Koons’s weird artworks, so itâs no surprise that when she meets Adam (David Striesow), she falls into a fast and furtive affair.
Simon also meets Adam. The two of them swim together at a spectacular indoor-outdoor pool in the city. Soon they too drift into a mutual attraction, which also culminates in secret sex. Simon has always has doubts about his sexual relationship with Hanna, but is just now ö at thirty-something ö willing to accept he might be gay. Itâs a bit stretch.
Now these three Berliners find themselves in a literal love triangle, each one keeping it hidden from the others. For a European sex romp, the film suffers from a surprising lack of sexual heat. Maybe it’s all that swimming in cold pools, detached experimental theatre and art they pour over, or just the fact that they are so very German. Things do warm up when Hanna discovers she is pregnant and the secrets can’t hold.
The screenplay moves the story along at an almost breathless clip and offers insight into the lives of these complex characters. They are sometimes too complex. Adam is a fertility specialist, sings in a choir, sails the North Sea, and still has time to visit his gamer teenage son. Hanna, along with Simon, owns a company that helps artists with large installations, hosts a television show, and sits on a community ethics board. She has a PhD in something, because people call her Dr. Simon faces testicular cancer while his mother is in life-support. It’s astounding they find time for sexual intrigue.
Tykwer Leads his story in surprising directions that match the no-limits lives of his characters. At the same time, he allows himself moments of pure play with the form of the film, using all the visual and sonic sophistication he has developed in two decades of making films. It’s a delight to watch such smart eyes look at modern desire. One does find lacking a truly queer perspective and in this regard the film suffers. That said, “Three” offers a mature look at how being open to a brave new world of sexual attraction, one’s life can become fully realized.