Ira Sachs teams up with three of the most exciting young actors in Europe – Franz Rogowski, German; Ben Whishaw, English; and Adèle Exarchopoulos, French – for this bruising love triangle film set in Paris
Ira Sachs has long been one of the most exciting voices on the American indie scene but he hasn’t quite broken through to a wide audience. Passages might just be that breakthrough. It’s an incisive relationship drama set in Paris centred on a maddeningly narcissistic film director, played wonderfully by German actor Franz Rogowski. You’ll love to hate Tomas from the opening scene, when he has a tantrum on set after an actor fails to understand his vague directions.
It turns out Tomas is as capricious a lover as he is a director. At the wrap party, he gets talking to Agathe (Exarchopoulos), a school teacher who seems to be helping out on the project, and they spend a passionate night together. The only problem is that Tomas is married to the sweet Martin (Ben Whishaw) – at least it would be a problem if Tomas cared a jot for anyone else's feelings. He blurts out his infidelities over morning coffee, too excited by his own sexual self-discovery to notice he’s cut his husband to the quick.
The film follows Tomas as he flits between his two lovers while agonising over the reception of his new film. The miracle of Rogowski’s performance is that we sympathise with his plight as selfishness comes home to roost, while also finding comic delight as he scrambles to avert his downfall. Genuine pathos is saved for Agathe and Martin. Despite being a deliriously sexy and passionate film, their ruinous experiences make a great case for avoiding love at all costs.
Released 1 Sep by MUBI; certificate 18
Passages screened at EIFF on 19 & 20 Aug