Three Peaks, a high-altitude power struggle
by Giorgia Del Don
- LOCARNO 2017: The second feature by the young Berlin director Jan Zabeil is a psychological high-tension drama and somewhat atypical ménage à trois
For his debut at Locarno Festival Jan Zabeil launches into a psychological drama, Three Peaks [+see also:
interview: Jan Zabeil
film profile], a high-altitude film featuring an atypical ménage à trois, that of mum (Léa, performed by the French Bérénice Bejo), her eight year old son Tristan and her new partner Aaron for whom she left her son's father (Alexander Fehling).
The backdrop to this threesome, which interlaces moments of complicity and pure misunderstanding, is a breathtaking landscape: that of the Three Peaks of Lavaredo in the Italian Dolomites, each in turn framed by the screen in the Piazza Grande in Locarno. Spot-on for a film whose majestic imagery definitely needs spaceto be truly appreciated in all its glory.
Léa, Tristan and Aaron are confined to the small alpine house in an attempt to strengthen their bond away from family pressures (Tristan's father is only apparent in the regular phone calls to his son) and the social pressures that they each face.
Although at first the mountain decor gives us a certain pastoral je-ne-sais-quoi - almost surreal in its beauty - with the passing of time and the developing feelings that bind Tristan and Aaron, the backdrop also seems to transform: subtly, almost deceitfully. Between the neo/pseudo/almost father and the neo/pseudo/almost son, there is a dangerous power struggle, an evil and sadistic ballet that reflects the ambivalence of the feelings that bind them.
What makes Jan Zabeil's high-altitude drama so modern is the representation of a rebuilt family in all its complexity. The bond between Tristan and Aaron transforms (in the true sense of the word) into a real journey traversed on unsteady legs.
The palpable tension that dominates the film is tangible from beginning to the end, comfortably treading the line somewhere between plausibility and pathos. Like two dogs sniffing each other, hoping to mark their territory, the two protagonists - supported by a mother/partner who sides with them both at different intervals - push each other further thatn they would ever believe possible, before realising that they are teetering on the edge of an abyss. What to do when the certainty of a traditional family breaks down? How to fill a hole left by someone who still exists? Despite his rock-hard appearance, Aaron seems lost in the majestic mountain landscape, a needle in a haystack. At the end of the film and in spite of the almost – and exaggerated - superhuman accent of the protagonist, the only things left standing are the millennial Dolomites.
(Translated from Italian)
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.