It's complicated

Sebastian Schipper and Sophie Rois play a couple who fall in love with the same man in the entertaining film 3.

Sebastian Schipper and Sophie Rois play a couple who fall in love with the same man in the entertaining film 3.

Or, rather, it is not about people who consider themselves gay, although a few of them, at least, seem to act in rather gay ways at certain points. It leaves the question of sexual identities open, although it does contain some commentary on the subject.

Basically, it’s the story of a love ­triangle: a man and a woman who have been together for nearly two decades find themselves separately falling in love with the same man. That is rather a spoiler, I suppose, because the movie takes its time to establish that this is what is going on. But then that is how it is described in all the media I have seen on it, including the festival booklet. And the movie’s poster goes, er, straight to the point, with an image of the three individuals in question in a tripartite embrace.

Yes, 3 is about a love triangle, but it’s also about a lot more. On the level of big themes, it’s about life and death — from genetic research to cancer. Lest that sound forbiddingly depressing, I hasten to add that 3 is done with sufficient complexity and lightness of touch to make it all quite entertaining.

It has the advantage, too, of a ­compelling lead performance from Sophie Rois as Hanna. She has an unusual beauty, which is to say she is not conventionally pretty and would not get a lead role in a big Hollywood movie. She would get the “character” part, or that of the evil witch in a ­fairy-tale fantasy.

But that face, and the use Rois makes of it, gives her character a startling individuality. Hanna is not the kind of person, male or female, one often sees in a movie. She feels quite unlike any type in any typology so far ­encountered; she is just, remarkably, herself. She is solid yet skittish, demanding yet undecided, and she is very much the centre of the movie, whatever else it might do to produce an impression of parity, as it were, between the characters.

She gets strong support (or counterpoint) from Sebastian Schipper as Simon, Hanna’s partner. Simon is vaguer, in a way, less defined in ­contrast to the strong outlines of Hanna, and playing that part as successfully as Schipper does is no mean feat in itself.

Tykwer puts all this together with great skill and some good-looking cinematic tricks, making 3 at least one of this mini-fest’s must-sees.

This second part of Out in Africa 2012 runs at Nu Metros Hyde Park and V&A Waterfront until August 5. Go to for the full programme

Shaun de Waal

Shaun de Waal

Shaun de Waal has worked at the Mail & Guardian since 1989. He was literary editor from 1991 to 2006 and chief film critic for 15 years. He is now editor-at-large. Recent publications include Exposure: Queer Fiction, 25 Years of the Mail & Guardian and Not the Movie of the Week. Read more from Shaun de Waal

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