About the Film
There are three sets of anxiety in Jan Zabeil's Three Peaks a woman is seeking a warmer life with a man who, in turn, tries to build an affectionate relationship with her son, while the son, in childish selfishness, doesn’t want his mother to move away from him in what he thinks is a “sensual theft,” although she makes it clear that “he doesn't have two fathers, but one.” This is how the boy, Tristan (Arian Montgomery), will explain to his foe standing at the foot of the three majestic peaks that they look “like a father, mother and child.”
What happens next should not be told but viewed on the screen, as Zabeil deliberately makes his trio appear like characters from an old Greek tragedy, heading towards a fatefu, inevitable end. This makes the wild and savage nature of the mountains around them seem like a womb, unwilling to give up the beings she holds within. What can
they do, then? According to Zabeil, they can only fulfill the promise, which the boy insists on in his repeated request to the young Aaron (Alexander Feeling) to “leave my mother alone.”
On the other side of the tragedy, the mother (Bérénice Bejo) becomes more like a Penelope, waiting for that thread to vibrate between her fingers so she would rush to meet her two darlings, declaring a pledge to her son: “Here I am, next to you,” forcing dark thoughts away and protecting her family from disintegration.
Three Peaks, with its unlimitedly humane cinematic sensibilities, benefits from the skill of cinematographer Axel Schneppat, who fills each character’s chapter with visual metaphors. The mother is always present in the middle of the frame, while the man is isolated in most of his scenes. As for the boy, the whiteness and fog that constantly envelop him mark the forgiveness that is late to arrive; protection from calamity that is sure to come.
Jan Zabeil is a director and screenwriter born in 1981 in Berlin,Germany. Zabeil studied at the University of Film and
Television in Potsdam-Babelsberg. His short films L.H.O. (2007) and What Would the Drop Know about That? (2008) won several awards from a number of international film festivals. His debut feature The River Used To Be a Man premiered in the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival, and won the Best New Director at the San Sebastián
International Film Festival and Best Cinematography from the German Critics Association, among other awards. Three Peaks premiered at the 2017 Locarno Film Festival, winning the Variety Piazza Grande award.