Movie of the week: 360

Jude Law stars in 360.

Jude Law stars in 360.

Zipping between Bratislava, Vienna, London, Denver, Paris, and a few other places, 360 is one of those multiple-storyline movies in which much depends on how the various narratives overlap and connect. If, in musical terms, this is a kind of polyphony, rather than monody with supporting harmonies, the connections that do appear between the apparently disconnected streams are crucial moments in a story that is very much about human connections and disconnections.

Movies such as Amores Perros and Crash deployed multiple storylines, but those differing lines radiated out, as it were, from a single nodal event (a car accident, say). They also placed most of the action in one location, or within a particular area (Mexico City in Amores Perros, Los Angeles in Crash). Fernando Meirelles’s 360, by contrast, is more akin to Alejandro González Iñárritu and Guillermo Arriaga’s Babel, where an issue is made, narratively speaking, of the disparities between the various stories, the huge distances between their different characters’ lives — an American couple in Morocco, a Tokyo teenager ... The connections have to take a while to emerge.

The title of 360 — as in degrees — indicates that the idea of circularity is thematic. At least one narrative element (which we may now take to be “privileged”, as one says in lit crit) will end up more or less where it began. There is a key moment in the movie, too, where one character persuades another to take a drive on a ring road, and although circularity may seem to imply repetition and perhaps pointlessness (the hamster’s wheel), here it hints at a chance to break away from old patterns.

Graphically, one would want to represent 360 not so much as a circle as a series of zigzags, some parallel to each other, others flying off at odd angles yet somehow managing to connect with another line later on. A young Brazilian woman fleeing her unfaithful London boyfriend happens to sit next to an old British man on the plane; she discovers his quest, and a brief bond develops. Snowed in at an American airport, they plan to connect for a meal but are in fact disconnected by the kind of ordinary muddle of happenstance that affects all our lives. The woman meets another man, a young American, and takes a shine to him ... But the young American has his own storyline, of course, as we’ve been shown, and what this woman may mean to him is radically different from what he means to her, as it were, in terms of her storyline.

That’s just one nexus in a complex movie that builds into a series of such, er ... nexi? It’s appropriate that the airport and the aeroplane are significant locations in 360 — they represent precisely the loci, shall we say, in which random interpersonal encounters can suddenly take place. That these encounters can develop into meaningful connections between people, for however brief a duration, is testament to the humanity the movie is exploring.

Brazilian director Meirelles, who became internationally known for his excellent City of God in 2002, is working here with a script by Peter Morgan, writer of The Last King of Scotland and The Queen, so this is already a multinational collaboration. Famed actors of Anglophonia such as Jude Law, Anthony Hopkins and Rachel Weisz turn up (and turn in fine work — Hopkins in particular); they are the ones with their faces on the poster, but they are really not a great deal more important than any of the other performers or roles.

Actually, Law and Weisz are less important, overall, in what one would call an ensemble cast if they were all in one storyline or one place. People you and I here in Anglophonia have never heard of, in particular Lucia Siposovà, Gabriela Marcinkova, Jamel Debnouze and Vladimir Vdovichenkov, deserve as much in the way of acting laurels.

360 may not, in the end, describe the perfect circle (and it is rather too long at more than two hours), but it’s rich with human life and the textures of our fractured, disparate worlds as they bump up against and slide into one another.


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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