Happy Together: Polyamory As Happy Ending in 3
A question that’s been coming up in some circles lately is whether or not polyamorous marriage will be allowed now that same-sex marriage has been legalized. A staggering amount of people don’t realize what that is, or have it some misconceptions. Polyamory, simply, a relationship that allows for multiple people to be romantically involved: sexually, emotionally – at least some capacity of involvement. This isn’t to be confused with cheating. Frankly, it’s still got a long ways to go in terms of mainstream acceptance. However, all journeys begin with exploration, particularly in art and film. Tom Tykwer took a crack at it with 3, the story of Simon (Sebastian Schipper) and Hanna (Sophie Rois), who begin romancing Adam (Devid Striesow) separately. The way that this film presented these three people and the way their relationship grows together proves a powerful love story. We get to see polyamory become the happy ending rather than the moment that tears lives apart.
|I really was not anticipating how much I was going to love this film.|
In the beginning, Simon and Hanna are in rough shape. Hanna looks aged and tired (nice makeup work on the behalf of the team that worked on this film), and the color palate is a bit ashen. They fight in a movie theater and miss each other’s events. They lead separate lives, with Hanna hinting at one point that sex for them has dwindled considerably. We also get to see Simon endure testicular cancer, and see him crushed when he finds out that his operative nurse had an abortion from an encounter he had with her years prior. Simon and Hanna are not married and do not have children; in fact, Simon postulates that they never used contraception because they figured one of them was infertile. When discussing children with Hanna later, Simon remarks what a child’s life would be like with them: “nanny after six weeks, daycare after six months, therapist after six years.” The number play there is significant: it can either be interpreted as multiples of three or multiples of two – however, this permutation is not successful because it only approaches family life as a couple, and their coupledom is failing. Tykwer insinuates that their relationship needs to grow to include something else in order to achieve happiness. As a twosome, there is emotional disconnect, disease, infertility and pessimism. On a biological as well as an emotional level, this relationship is unproductive. Monogamy thus becomes something that is boring, tedious and physically dangerous to the well-being of its practitioners.
Enter Adam, who brings with him positive change on the individual level. From the first interactions with Hanna, we see intellectual stimulation in the form of chimera research, social ease with friends, and the first smiles we get from her during this film. The science helps move the plot along: instead of flatly rejecting the chimera research (a symbol of the rebellion against a newer form of relationship), Hanna opens herself to the possibility, views the work and decides that it has merit after all, drawing a parallel to her budding romantic situation. It has a positive impact on her: as time progresses, her skin tone is more vibrant, her hair is darker and more lush, and she has a greater zeal for all areas of her life, including caring for the cancer-stricken Simon. As for Simon, he has his first sexual experience post-surgery with Adam, and is surprised by what he feels for this man. He regains color and speed in physical activity (swimming in itself could be counted as a rebirth) with the presence of Adam, and is thus able to move on after not only the cancer diagnosis, but the revelation that he could have been a father. One of the most striking aspects of this film goes to the performances of Schipper and Striesow – I absolutely believed that I was watching two men fall in love, and they way they played it was, in a word, gorgeous. They stopped time for me. Watching people fall in love is beautiful, and we cheered for Simon and Adam to make this connection. We liked the impact it had on Hanna. In essence, Adam breathes new life into everyone involved, and manages to help them rediscover a sense of passion in multiple areas of life, whether it’s work or beating cancer.
A byproduct of this awakening is Simon’s renewal of his relationship with Hanna, whom he marries after 20 years together. We see, in a well-done montage, not just increased sex between the pair, but increased general intimacy. The holding of an umbrella, smiles, dinners, wedding vows – the intimate moments of a couple that have nothing to do with sex. They achieve a closeness that they didn’t have pre-Adam. This is a two-way street as well, for Adam benefits from the relationships. We see a man that only had casual sex developing feelings for both people, as well as a more effective relationship with his son, whom he sees once every two weeks. We hear him ask both partners if he could go back to their respective homes, demonstrating that he’s willing to take a closer look at their lives as opposed to simply smiling and telling them to leave his apartment. He’s included in the afore-mentioned montage as well, both with Simon and Hanna, as well as alone. We get to see Adam acknowledge his own loneliness as he begins to fall in love with them both. We see him open up to the possibility of loving them; even his ex concludes that love has not been something that he’s experienced in a long time. Hanna and Simon give that back to him. The experience manages to make his life better as well; he’s not just the catalyst, but an active participant, an equal partner.Where do they get into trouble? When they’re not honest with each other. Adam is more of a free agent – however, Simon and Hanna keep their respective affairs from each other, which temporarily dooms their relationship. Hanna looks visibly upset that Simon has not told her about Adam; her reaction to the situation (as well as her pregnancy and the unknown father) is to go to England for a few months. Their relationship is jeopardized because they are not honest with each other. Once they have some time to process the information, as well as their desire to have Adam in their lives, they are able to come together again as a stronger, more effective relationship. That Hanna becomes pregnant with twins is a plot convention that I could have done without (much like the interpretive dance number early on in the film); however, it cements the triad and serves to bring them closer together. It’s strongly hinted that the children have different fathers, yet will be connected through their mother. They have created a family unit that unites them. A more honest, happy family is the destination of this film. In a world that strives for authenticity (or at least claims to want it), this film provides it in the form of a relationship that does not conform to the norms of society.
|I love how they both have that “oh, shit…” look.|
We close the story with the three in bed, naked – no secrets, expecting twins and ready for a long, restful sleep. As an audience, we get the feeling that this is the right ending for them. The way that they show affection for each other before snuggling down, the happy body language – this is an attached relationship, one that will presumably be far more successful than the cold, unhappy twosome at the beginning of the film. That polyamory is the solution rather than the problem is significant: it calls into question whether or not the traditional model of relationships is best. By stark comparison of the same characters attempting both models throughout the film, Tykwer presents that sometimes, the scary new thing brings the most happiness, even if it’s not what’s expected. Their love won, leaving us to ask ourselves: is it really so bad and controversial to admit that we can get different things from different people, and still have room in our hearts for everyone?