Honesty and faithfulness appear to be in short supply

Oct 3, 2006
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:interesting characters and drama

Cons:some incomplete character details, some viewers won't care for explicit sex scenes

The Bottom Line: Sex, adultery, jealousy -- isn't life grand?

If one comes out with any lesson from the Austrian film Antares, it is that relationships between men and women stink. Another lesson may be that it sometimes can be vastly entertaining to watch such relationships unravel, as long as that relationship is not your own.

There are three major plotlines in this film, and the movie could easily be described as three short films except for the fact they are linked in that Pulp Fiction or Short Cuts kind of way where incidental events involving incidental characters in one segment turn out to be major events involving major characters in another. Much of the fun in watching this film, as it is in watching others of this type, is in discovering all the points where the three plots converge. The most obvious link is a car crash involving at least one major character. We see the crash in the very first scene, and it is played out two other times during the film.

The guy involved in the crash has just been looking at sexual photos of a woman he’s been having an affair with. The woman, Eva, is a nurse and married. The two had hooked up a couple of days before. The movie is very sketchy about the history of these two - although it’s clear they’ve known each other from years past, and are returning to old ways.

We see their varied romps in the man’s hotel room. And we also see the nurse’s homelife with husband and teenage daughter; not particularly bad, but not particularly exciting either. Eva does shift work so she and her husband don’t have a whole lot of time for each other. But the husband’s frustrations do come out when, after a bad experience with a guy who was supposed to show them around an apartment, he accuses Eva of not caring about things.

The second plot involves a young couple. To me, this is definitely one of those examples where these two deserve each other. Sonya has been faking a pregnancy in order to ensure her boyfriend sticks around - she’s hoping she’ll really get pregnant and soon, since she’s been faking it for the last two months. And she’s also suspicious about her boyfriend. She’ll get mad because he doesn’t return her calls in an appropriate space of time. And she freaks out because of certain comments he makes about his friend’s fiancee. And she roots through his jacket, and finds a phone number. The boyfriend seems to be able to convince her that it’s actually his friend’s number - he even dials the phone number and gets Sonya to talk to him.

But the boyfriend is having an affair. He’s having it with an older woman, Nicole - a divorced single parent - living nearby......

The third plot involves Nicole’s ex-husband. He’s what one minor character describes as a thug. He’s emotionally unstable and potentially dangerous. Nicole hates him because he’s been abusive, both physically and sexually, towards her. And yet he keeps dropping by the apartment, trying to convince her in his pathetic way that they should be together again. He hopes to wow her with his supposed newfound success - he’s driving a ‘new’ car, and is working in real estate (he lies about his success). But he’s not a charmer - a bit hard when he acts like a jerk at all times, to anyone and everyone.

The movie does have some fun qualities, especially when you play the how-does-all-this-link-together game. And the individual stories are entertaining to watch as well. Some of the characters are quite interesting, especially the ex-husband - the script focuses a lot more on his general personality than just the single fact he was abusive towards his wife, and he’s funny in that utterly pathetic and desperate way. Despite his occassional violence and the real mix of fear and hatred Nicole has for him, he comes across less like a ‘dangerous’ man than a pathetic one. I couldn’t help but laugh at most of the things he does - but then again I have a vicious streak.

I think the big flaw is that one of these things is not like the others. The second and third stories are more naturally linked to each other, than they are to the first plot. Actually, I’d almost be hesitant to call them ‘separate’ stories, as the four characters are essentially involved in the same drama. Unlike a typical drama with a couple, and the ‘other person,’ we see the drama from both sides. We witness the dynamic of one couple when the man has an affair, and we also witness the dynamic of that ‘other woman’ and why she would get involved with the young man (as an emotional escape from her past).

The story about Eva and her affair could have easily been a self-contained story. This story is only linked with the others through contrived coincidences. And the story is also a lot more sexually charged. The movie received some notice due to the sex scenes between Eva and her lover, which are quite explicit along the lines of those other steamy European films like Intimacy (and which is OK by me). The scenes also include a couple of voyeuristic scenes, including a moment where the man pays a maid $100 to walk in while the couple have sex (and while Eva is blindfolded). The sexuality of the first segment doesn’t quite jibe with the other two segments, which are quite mild.

I’m giving this four stars despite those minor issues. I enjoyed this film as a sometimes clever slice-of-life relationship drama. It’s the kind of drama that anyone who wants to play the voyeur and spy on some messed-up relationships will enjoy.

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