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Tom Tykwer has come of age as a director with this film, and has dropped his sparkling visual flair in favor of straightforward yet sophisticated storytelling. His camera and editing are spot-on yet smart, as he carefully weaves a layered tale of two lost adults who rediscover and remake themselves through their relationship with another man.
His nuanced trio of characters deliberately play against gender types: Simon, the husband, is passive, quiet, artistic, and metaphorically female; Hanna, the wife, is assertive, successful, opinionated, and symbolically male; Adam, their paramour, a fertilization specialist who "brings life" to their dull routine, has both male and female sides.
The way their lives intertwine is both surprising and entertaining, and Tykwer not only explores their raw cores of emotional and physical need, but deftly and expertly exposes the humor in Hanna and Simon's awkward fumbling for new purpose.
What Woody Allen does for New York, Tykwer does for Berlin, showcasing the city as a vibrant center of art, culture, and yes, sexuality, filled with creative inhabitants who have gone there to remake themselves.
His intermittent visual collages of the character's lives inject new vitality to the stale montages we've all seen a million times; it's not that the screen has never been subdivided this way before, but that Tykwer's method of visual construction is meticulous and succinct -- like every frame of this film.
The result is an engaging, truthful, and non-traditional romance that leaves you feeling hopeful that love can tear down our seemingly permanent walls; yet another reason to set it in Berlin!
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