360: Arthur Schnitzler Revisited
Intertwining tales of deceit, regret and desire, the film 360 links encounters full circle
The film 360, which premiered in Vienna 17 September, unites the acclaimed talents of screenwriter Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon) with director Fernando Meirelles (The Constant Gardener, City of God). The fourth major adaption of Arthur Schnitzler’s acclaimed 1897 play Reigen for the screen, it joins Max Ophüls 1950s masterpiece La Ronde (with Simone Signoret and Jean Louis Barrault), Roger Vadim’s 1964 remake with a screen play by Jean Anouilh, and a more playful (some say frivolous) Austrian version in 1973, directed by Otto Schenk, with Senta Berger and Helmut Lohner among the all-star cast. This is very swift league.
Schnitzler’s Reigen created a scandal in its day, bringing personal attacks against the "Jewish pornographer" following its premiere in Berlin in 1920. The sexual roundelay in fin de siècle Vienna – a series of sexual encounters between ten pairs of characters, beginning and ending with a prostitute – drew in people of different classes and backgrounds in ironic juxtapositions that were a brazen challenge to contemporary stage decorum and a pointed critique of the hypocrisies of social convention. Sex is the great leveller, Schnitzler was saying, where the power relations of gender or social status blur to the point of irrelevance.
Meirelles and Morgan’s 360 contemporises these themes, scrutinizing the sexual morals and class ideology a modern and dynamic story, linking characters as the "baton" passes from one actor to the next in different cities and countries in a vivid, suspenseful and moving tale of love in the 21st century. We are privy only to fleeting moments but soon begin to realise the profound impact of the chance encounters where characters intersect and collide.
Chance and coincidence are the order of the day, as the film compellingly shifts tones from romantic drama to tragedy and thriller. Referring to the 360 degrees of Schnitzler’s circle dance, the film begins and ends in Vienna with a prostitute embroiled in chilling sexual encounters, reinventing the Austrian playwright for the Internet age. The world of 360 is transient and in constant motion, with stories zigzagging across several continents in taxis, cars, buses, airplanes and on foot, with seven different languages spoken. The motif of an aeroplane is constant, as the action takes place in anonymous bars and restaurants, vast airports and indistinct hotel rooms, intimate apartments and side streets. The film reflects how obsolete boundaries have become in contemporary life.
Lonely British businessman Michael Daly (Jude Law) decides at the last moment not to use the services of a Slovakian prostitute in Vienna. He calls his wife and leaves a brief but heartfelt message telling her that he misses her. We later discover back home in London that his wife Rose (Rachel Weisz) is having a passionate affair with Rui (Juliano Cazarré) a young Brazilian photographer, but she ends this, valuing her marriage more and in part responding to something that touches her in Michael’s voice when she listens to his message. Meanwhile Rui’s girlfriend Laura (Maria Flor) has discovered the affair and decides to leave him and go back to Brazil. She does not leave a letter but rather films a video clip of herself, which she leaves on Rui’s computer telling him that she cannot bear it anymore and that she is going home. On the plane Laura sits next to John (Anthony Hopkins), a recovering alcoholic and grieving father, on his way to Arizona hoping to find his vanished daughter. They strike up a conversation and ultimately seem to share something honest and meaningful. John is energised by Laura’s openness and passion, which enables him to move on in his own life.
Because of bad weather, flights out of Denver are grounded and Laura and John are given hotel rooms for the night. Whilst waiting for John at a restaurant, Laura realises she is in the mood to be reckless and get something of her own back on Rui. She meets Tyler (Ben Foster) and becomes increasingly flirtatious and invites him back to her room. In one of 360’s most suspenseful moments, our minds run wild with possibility, especially as we are now aware that Tyler is a convicted sex offender on parole.
Throughout the film, characters struggle with their temptations and are strongly tested. Still, a mood of hope still manages to pervade the film, as we witness the kindness of strangers, the refreshing chance for reinvention and the frequent choice to do the right thing, enabling people to move forward.
Cast of cameos
Visually, 360 is handsomely shot, with an interesting variety of split screens that unite the story. We are given images of the day-to-day Vienna rather than the tourist spots, catching glimpses of cafés, hotels, side streets, and the Naschmarkt, as well as a view of the Ring from a car.
Performances are generally strong, although Anthony Hopkins dominates, if only for his scene of self-revelation to an Alcoholics Anonymous group. There are also many good cameos including Johannes Kirsch as a sleazy Austrian pimp and Moritz Bleibtreu as the equally sleazy blackmailing businessman. But perhaps the greatest pleasure for us in Vienna is the honest and appealing portrait of the great city we know so well.
Now showing at the following cinemas:
Nightly until 11 Oct., 21:15
7., Museumstr. 3
(01) 523 75 91
5-11 Oct., 19:00
1., Schottenring 5
(01) 317 52 36
2-4 Oct., 18:30
6 & 7 Oct., 14:45
9., Währinger Str. 12
(01) 317 35 71