The concept of getting into a romantic relationship in this day and age seems like a labyrinth. Inflation, global warming, general divisiveness, a better understanding of human behavior, and this whole pandemic hasn’t only made finding a partner difficult, it has made the mere act of striking a conversation an uphill task. Yes, fans of the social activity will say that you are overthinking it and then find themselves in couple’s counseling or therapy sessions. So, let’s not go there. That said, the only thing that seems more complicated than closed, monogamous relationships is an open relationship. So much so that making a movie on it and calling it Three Headed Beast (2022) is absolutely correct.
Three Headed Beast is written and directed by Fernando Andrés and Tyler Rugh. It follows the lives of Peter (Jacob Schatz), Alex (Cody Shook) and Nina (Dani Hurtado). Peter helps Alex move in to his new home, have sex and go to sleep. On the other side of the town, Nina wakes up beside her lover. They hug and Nina departs. It’s revealed that Peter and Nina are partners and have been so for the past eight years. They are planning to go to Fredericksburg and visit the place called Enchanted; thereby giving the narrative a ticking time-bomb aspect, which indicates that something is going to go down by then. And, you guessed it, by the time the countdown comes to “1 day”, Peter, Alex and Nina’s lives go through some tectonic shifts.
Three Headed Beast is amazing in every way. But the sound design, editing and cinematography by Fernando Andrés are the winners. Spoiler alert: the movie hardly has any dialogue. There’s probably a 10-to-15-minute segment where Peter, Alex and Nina speak (there’s a reason for it). Other than that, all you have are moving images and the ambient sound.
Our mind has been programmed to associate movies with dialogue. But cinema’s very inception didn’t have any. So, stripping the dialog away from the narrative seems like Andrés’s way of returning to the source material that makes the medium of entertainment. Then he peppers it with some of the most intimate frames – focusing on the most accurate expressions and body language to sell the emotion of the scene – and creates a borderline hypnotic sound-scape. It’s a transfixing visual experience.
The story of Three Headed Beast is all about tackling the very nuances of an open relationship. But it’s also about the individuality of the characters on-screen and the spaces they share. It all may seem very simple and that’s only because Andrés and Rugh make it look like that. If you watch and rewatch it, you’ll notice how they build towards certain character decisions, what they are saying through the moments of intimacy, what the things they are listening to (or not listening) speak about the characters, and more. And it’s this character study that helps you examine the pros and cons of the concept at hand.
The film doesn’t exactly judge the people who are in this open relationship and instead celebrates them, flaws and all. It essentially serves as a reality check for what an open relationship entails and how you should be ready to not just face what comes beyond the honeymoon phase, but also be ready to talk about it.
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At the cost of sounding traditional or conservative (and kind of in line with the opening paragraph), while not giving away too much about Three Headed Beast, it just seems like people are biting off more than they can chew. We as a species are still in the process of understanding sexuality, how to maintain a monogamous relationship, how to come out of it without having our mental state in pieces. And now you want to add more people to it? There’s a time and age for exploration. Do it then. Don’t peak too early and then start your experimental phase later on because the older you get, the more time it takes to heal. Do you really want to spend your 30s and 40s picking up your broken pieces, despite having “the one” in front of you? If the answer to that is “yes”, (like the movie shows) then please be prepared to be an adult about it because it’s not going to be sunshines and rainbows.
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Coming to the performances, Jacob Schatz, Cody Shook and Dani Hurtado are excellent. As mentioned before, it takes some time getting used to your protagonists not uttering a word. But the way the actors and the filmmakers ease you into this style of storytelling is worthy of applause. You almost feel yourself letting go of your preconceived notions about the film and observing what’s happening on-screen. When you do that, you see the finesse with which these three express themselves, how they touch each other, how they respond to touch, what they’re doing when they are alone, what the choice of their clothing is saying about them, etc. The film allows you to project so much of yourself onto Peter, Alex and Nina that when they speak, you realize that you now have to deal with the notion that their thoughts and words aren’t in line with what you’ve imagined about their psyches. The supporting cast does an excellent job as well. However, it’s Rocco who takes the cake.
In conclusion, Three Headed Beast is an apparently simple, calming and sensual film about three people learning to love each other and themselves. But underneath the surface, there is a very relevant commentary about the trials and tribulations that come with open relationships. It asks in a level-headed fashion that are you ready to give the same kind of freedom to the person that stood by you when you tested various waters? Or are you going to forcibly close the doors on them just because you are done pushing the limits of your romantic threshold? The film is an absolute delight to listen to and look at. The storytelling by Fernando Andrés and Tyler Rugh, and the performances from the cast, deserve your attention. So, do watch it and have a transformative experience.