Director Fernando Meirelles made one of the strongest directorial debuts of the last twenty years with his film City of God and followed this up with the equally well received The Constant Gardener in 2005. He then went on to direct the film Blindness which despite having a neat central idea was less than the sum of its parts. Hopes were high for his next film as he was collaborating with screenwriter Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon) on a truly international stage.
360 is loosely based on a play by Arthur Schnitzler written in 1897 called La Ronde. The original play is a study of the morals and ideology of people of various classes and the role that sex plays in their lives. The point of this is that Schnitzler is saying that sex crosses all boundaries and classes. The play has been loosely adapted into film thirteen times over the last sixty years and 360 is the latest version. I think it’s fair to say that despite having a great opportunity to comment on the current status of class in a shrinking world and the role that sex and relationships play, the message is considerably lost in this version of the story.
The plot is one of those connecting ones where each encounter ends and picks up the thread of the next encounter with a character introduced. It goes a little something like this; a young girl from the Czech Republic becomes a prostitute for hire through the internet, Jude Law is a married car agency executive who hires her for the night and then changes his mind only to get found out and blackmailed by a business associate. Law’s wife, played by Rachel Weisz, is back in London and having an affair with a hunky Brazilian photographer whose girlfriend finds out and leaves him and on route back to Brazil she encounters Anthony Hopkins whose daughter is missing somewhere in the states after she found out he was having an affair. Ben Foster is a sex offender released from prison who encounters the girlfriend in the airport and faces temptation all around him. Meanwhile in Paris a widowed Muslim dentist struggles with his faith and feelings for his co-worker who is married to a Russian mob enforcer whose boss is about to be blackmailed by the prostitute at the beginning of the film whose sister he forms a bond with outside a hotel.
Frustratingly, and as you can probably tell from the above plot synopsis, only one of these plotlines really develops and pays off in the manner that you would usually expect of a conventional narrative. It’s fair enough that the film is supposed to be some kind of commentary on the value of various relationship institutions in the modern world but Meirelles eye is perhaps too cold and detached for his subject matter and what he is portraying to ever fully engage. Whilst the performances are solid (especially Ben Foster and Anthony Hopkins) none of the characters are given any kind of redeeming features outside of their central dilemma which renders most of them unlikable.
The plot that does pay off with the prostitutes and the Russian mafia overlords, feels out-of-place compared to the rest of the storylines which don’t go anywhere. If Meirelles and Morgan had somehow managed to make the Jude Law, Rachel Weisz and Muslim dentist struggling with his faith plots actually feel like they reached some kind of satisfactory conclusion no matter how bleak or happy then the film could have been one we were all talking about for the awards season. In its current state the film has rightly gone largely ignored all round.
Meirelles is capable of so much more as a storyteller and filmmaker and hopefully this is just a minor misstep and he will come back with something astounding. 360 is a film with an international cast and some people who you may not know who will be worth keeping an eye on as well as some great performances from established actors. It’s a shame that as a whole the film does not hang together as there was ample opportunity here for a commentary on the increasingly confusing state of relationships in our modern 24-7 world.