360

(MA) Madman DVD/BD

The tagline of this slick yet unsatisfying film is: “We’re all connected.” Unfortunately 360’s exploration of this idea lacks depth and emotional power.

The story is complicated and multi-stranded, weaving together a diverse range of characters  across the globe: a Slovakian prostitute and an English businessman in Vienna; a romantically obsessed Algerian man in Paris and the woman he desires; an adulterous Brazilian photographer and his girlfriends; a sex offender in Colorado and Russian gangsters back in Vienna — among others.

As the title suggests, the narrative structure is circular, modelled on that of  the 19th century play, La Ronde, which explores social issues via a chain of encounters among pairs of sexual partners.

The film ends as it began: with the same situation and in the same locale.

The problem is that this rigid structure dominates the film, minimising the credibility of characters, relationships and situations — all of which seem contrived to turn the narrative “full circle”.

The plethora of characters and storylines results in a series of brief, rapidly changing vignettes, allowing little time for character development and nuance.

There are some strong moments. Genuine suspense is created in the chance encounter between tormented sex offender, Tyler (convincingly portrayed by a disturbing Ben Foster), and a romantically betrayed Brazilian woman, Laura (Maria Flor).

As a guilty, grieving father learning to relinquish his long-missing daughter, Anthony Hopkins delivers a bravura performance in a monologue suffused with sadness, acceptance and hope.

His caring, fatherly connection with Laura provides a merciful contrast to the predatory relationships that dominate the rest of the film.

Jude Law and Rachel Weisz fare less well as the English couple struggling with infidelity and blackmail; their story is sketchily developed and its resolution lacks credibility.

The film looks sleek but feels derivative: the concluding gangland scene has more than a whiff of Tarantino about it (minus the black humour). The use of split screen photography in some sequences seems arbitrary and songs on the soundtrack, though atmospheric, can occasionally be intrusive.

T. S. Eliot famously suggested that we return in a circle to where we started so we can “know the place for the first time”. Sadly, in 360 the trip home is not so rewarding.

Katrina Samaras

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