Three (Drei)

Written and Directed by Tim Tykwer
Starring Sophie Rois, Sebastian Schipper, Devid Striesow
Run time: 119 minutes
MPAA rating: Not Rated
In German with English subtitles

Tim Tykwer is a prolific director of intelligent, adult films. “Three” is set in contemporary Germany and examines the evolution of a three-way, polyamorous relationship among successful bourgeois fortysomethings. Tykwer became internationally well-known with his hit “Run, Lola, Run,” a meditation on death. His next big success, “The Princess and the Warrior,” was set in Wuppertal and focused on the love story between a nurse and a former soldier. Tykwer then turned Peter Süsskind’s bestselling novel “Perfume” into a film. Most recently, he made his Hollywood debut with “The International,” starring Clive Owen and Naomi Watts. Now with “Three,” Tykwer returns to his German roots, with this study of manners and morals in contemporary Berlin.

Hanna (Sophie Rois) is a television reporter and hosts a philosophically oriented talk show. At the film opens, she demonstrates her hard-hitting style, interrogating Adam (Devid Striesow), a biologist who experiments in stem cell research. Adam speaks of challenging the deterministic biological model, leaving the audience to puzzle over the relevance of such philosophical speculation to everyday affairs. Hanna’s live-in lover of twenty years, Simon (Sebastian Schipper) works for a small firm, directing the production of public art objects and their installation. He is having difficulties with an art installation project, and at one point brings Spinoza to bear on his problems.

About the time Hanna and Simon decide it’s high time to make their relationship official, and get married, Hanna starts to stray. The initial hostility between herself and Adam turns, through a chance encounter, into a sexual liaison. The attraction is mutual and appears to be deep. Meanwhile, after an evening’s swim at a local public swimming pool, Simon experiences a seemingly one-off locker room hook-up with Adam. Simon has never had a gay experience before, but he is intrigued. After a second locker room encounter, Simon invites Adam out for a beer. They exchange numbers, and the plot thickens.

“Three” takes it time setting up the amorous knot. Each character is examined in some detail-their professional commitments, the complexities of their emotional lives, and the plausibility of their casual sexual encounters, which take a more serious turn. Sophie Rois’s Hanna is a strong-willed, independent contemporary German woman, who retains her feminine wiles. Sebastian Schipper’s Simon is almost pitiable, as he is cuckolded in blissful ignorance. His chance walk on the wild side is completely believable, manifesting a quintessentially urban German male’s curiosity, free of macho homophobia. The bisexual Adam alone remains inscrutable, and perhaps a little too ideal, in his seeming amorality. When Hanna discovers she is pregnant, what have been humorously complicating dalliances, takes a sharp turn. What bearing do Spinoza and deterministic biology have on polyamory?

Les Wright


Beverly Berning has recently begun her fourth career as a high school teacher of French and Italian, but her love of film remains steadfast. A former film student who aspired to be just like her idols Woody Allen, Erik Rohmer and Charlie Kaufman, she has been writing reviews for Culturevulture since 2006.