Posted October 7, 2011 by William Dunmyer in Drama

Drei: About Sexual and Romantic Transformation

The art-house just keeps shining in 2011. Thank God, because Hollywood has been awful for the most part this year. “Drei” (Three) is the next wonderful film on the art-house circuit.

From Germany’s Tom Tykwer, one of the most original filmmakers in the world (you’ve GOT to see his under-rated 2006 film “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer”), comes an exploration of modern relationships, particularly with regard to bisexuality. More and more people are exploring bisexuality, and Tykwer is right there exploring this quintessential 21st-century development.

There’s no doubt in my mind that in the year 2100 most people in the Western world will consider themselves bisexual. People perhaps will look back at “Drei” as a harbinger of this. Tykwer is a true artist, in the sense that he has his finger on the pulse of evolution. He senses where we are going, and that’s what interests him. In many ways, I think of artists as people several decades ahead of the rest of the population, sending us postcards from the future. This is certainly the case with Tykwer.

In “Drei” we meet a happy, well-educated heterosexual couple approaching the age of 40. One is successful in the arts and the other in science. (One of the exhilarating aspects of “Drei” is how it captures the excitement of 21st-century science, particularly biology.) By pure happenstance, the husband and wife on separate occasions both make the acquaintance of a male scientist, and each strikes up a friendship with him. Quite quickly, the wife starts having an affair with him. But the big surprise is that the husband, despite having been straight his whole life, starts falling for this man as well.

Pretty soon this scientist, without realizing it, is having an affair with a woman and the woman’s husband! For quite a long time, none of the three realizes the bizarre triangle that has formed.

Eventually, the truth is revealed. The scene where the three individuals simultaneously learn the truth is powerful. You can see the earth-shattering humiliation and confusion in all three characters. Just trying to contemplate the breadth of what each must have been thinking and feeling in that moment stretches the mind and heart.

It’s especially interesting to contemplate what was happening for the husband. He was the only one going through an evolution of his sexual orientation. (The scientist had long ago established a bisexual lifestyle.) Unfortuantely, Tykwer glosses over this a bit. In fact, each character is reticent and doesn’t say much about what is going on in their minds. We have to rely on the actors’ faces to glean clues about the inner lives of the characters.

One nicely written scene involves the husband trying to figure out how to describe himself after the intensity of his same-sex attraction becomes clear. He gets tongue-tied trying to use the word “gay” to describe himself in a way that’s quite affecting. One can really feel for him.

I won’t reveal the ending, but it is interesting. The film slightly cops out in the end, presenting the characters as so open-minded as to be unrealistic. But still, there is so much food for thought in “Drei.” The direction, furthermore, is expert. Tykwer directs with near-effortless charm and cogency. Every scene zips along elegantly and with real heart. The editing, cinematography, and writing are so good sometimes that it gives one goosebumps. This film is a joy.

William Dunmyer

William Dunmyer is a lifelong cinephile who fell in love with movies at about the age of 5. He lives in New York City.