3D Play Turned into 3D Movie: Somehow Loses Depth
A review of the film Les Beaux Jours d’Aranjuez in 3D
Venice Film Festival Review 2016
Wim Wenders’ first French-language film transports Peter Handke’s stage play to 3D cinema. Les Beaux Jours d’Aranjuez adapts the 2012 pièce, that juxtaposes the female and male point of view, as a couple’s conversation traverses memories, unspoken desires and passion, through sibylline dialogue.
The story opens on the notes of Lou Reed’s Perfect Day, as we leave the center of Paris and arrive to the garden of a French country house. A young writer (Jens Harzer), sits in a room at his typewriter, voicing out what the man and woman in the bucolic setting say to one another. The Pirandellian rapport between the author and his characters is merely instrumental for the audience to assist to the confrontation between genders.
There, under a flowering gazebo, the man, played by a smirking but strangely magnetic Reda Kateb (Zero Dark Thirty, The Prophet), and the woman (a circumlocutory but self-assured Sophie Semin) are playing some kind of a truth-or-dare game. She has agreed to answer his questions about her first sexual experiences, which leads to profound philosophical musings on how it feels to be a woman and to have a lover, before during and after. Speaking rapidly, Semin often corrects herself, as though the writer in the house were rewriting her dialogue on the spot.
The Eden-like setting suggests they are outside of time and history, but not reality. We are witnessing the mise-en-scène of a contemporary (and at the same time ageless) Decameron. The essence of human affairs is crystallized and analyzed under a microscope, as the archetypes of womanhood and manhood dissect it through rapier wit. Neither of them has a name or context. They are both suspended in vegetation, as they sip lemonade and epitomize the contemporary Adam and Eve, bickering on pseudo-existential issues.
Despite the skillful actors, camerawork and offbeat musical choices, the result is rarefied art cinema that will have as much trouble finding an audience, as the two characters do finding some equilibrium in their outlook − as well as the 3D that is completely ineffective.
A guest appearance by Nick Cave, who magically appears singing at a piano Into my arms, not to mention a vintage Wurlitzer jukebox that literally plays the background songs, are inapropos additions to the play, although they offer some enlivening audio contrasts.
Wim Wenders’ Les Beaux Jours d’Aranjuez fails in all possible ways. The figure of the writer − as allegory of “Universal Creator” − comes across as banal and anachronistic. Whereas the suspension between reality and dream does not suffice to convey an effective grasp upon the difference between the masculine and feminine perspective, because their entire conversation exemplifies the monotony of incongruous verbose rumination. Regrettably, Wenders’ attempt to make a movie with an auteur-cogitation approach, results in mental masturbation that he alone can decipher.