One of the most meaningful films about and against war.
The movie Three (Tri) is anti-war. It depicts war’s utter bestiality, waste and absurdity. Death is the indisputable protagonist. She takes three different appearences, as punishment, as victim and as the expression of the senselesseness of war.
You must be against war, but really, fully, against all the actors of the war. And against those who create reasons for war.
|Production company:||Avala film, Beograd 1965|
|Sceenplay:||Antonije Isaković, Aleksandar Petrović|
|Set Design:||Vladislav Lašić, Nikola Rajić|
|Art Director:||Nikola Rajić|
|Film Editing:||Mirjana Mitić|
|Music:||“Ðelem, Ðelem“ (Mihajlo Lakatoš)(mp3)
|Choice of music:||Aleksandar Petrović|
|Cast:||Velimir Bata Živojinović, Ali Raner, Senka Veletanlić-Petrović, Voja Mirić, Slobodan Perović, Mića Tomić, Branislav Jerinić, Gizela Vuković|
Three was filmed in the arid Dinaric Alps and in the interminable swamps of the delta of the Neretva River near the Adriatic sea. In this film, even the locations become an expression of Man’s Destiny.
Three is one the most significant movies about war and against war.
In three episodes, the film narrates the war in Yugoslavia from 1941 to 1944. Milos, a partisan, is the hero. He is confronted to death three times. “The entire film is one man’s outlook on war and his witnessing death through the lens of war.”
The first part narrates the death of a Serb killed in error and with no trial by soldiers of his own country.
April 1941: a train station in provincial Serbia during a flash attack by the German army. People wait… maybe a train will lead them somewhere, but where – nobody knows. Panic takes over like a psychosis. Time passes, no train. Fear leads to desperation. People start to look. A regiment of the Royal Yugoslav Army attempts to calm down the crowd. A stranger is accused of belonging to the “Fifth Column.” This innocent man will be shot with no trail. Milos can do nothing to save him.
This is the first absurd and bestial death.
Surrounded by SS, Milos finds munitions. He is cold, hungry, and alone. In an abandoned cemetery, he meets another partisan, fearful, temporarily abandoned by his unit because of his injuries. The chase starts. The partisans separate: the first one to be captured will possibly save the other’s life. The Germans capture the other partisan, but he dies a hero. In refusing to turn his back to the line of shooters, the SS lock him in a cabin and burn him to death under Milos’ desperate cries.
Second cruel and bestial death.
Autumn 1944: the end of the war. A group of “collaborators” is brought in the yard of a village house that was transformed into a field commanding office by Milos’s group. Amongst them is a young woman. Milos notices her. They exchange looks. Milos must be the one to condemn her. He would like to believe in her innocence but the facts are irrefutable – she was the mistress of a German commander. While they are in the yard, the prisoners waiting for destiny to decide itself, Milos begins to question: should we forgive or punish?
All will be gunned down. Milos knows that the war is done. He goes out into the yard to watch the passing of carts which are announcing the merry news.
Third tragic, and maybe most absurd death since the war is over.
“…I wanted to tell the story through a protagonist who observes passively. Or rather, three stories of his life he was directly linked to, without ever intervening.” – Aleksandar Petrovic
Awards, honors, festivals:
Three was the first Yugoslav movie released in the United States (in 1966).
Aleksandar Petrović’s films Three and I Even Met Happy Gypsies provided the world an introduction to Yugoslav cinema.
Daniel Goulding About Three, in his book ‘Liberated cinema’ (1965)
Three presented a concrete intimate psychological portrait of an ordinary partisan warrior caught in the matrix of confused and morally ambiguous events. The protagonist is not so much the author of his actions as he is carried along in the sweep and tide of historical events and concrete human dilemmas. His impulse is to intervene and to prevent three senseless and cruel deaths in the film. He ends by being a reluctant, helpless and despairing witness.
The simple events of the film are shot with remarkable economy and richness of visual detail. Metaphor is introduced naturally and unobtrusively. The herding and scattering of the gaggle of geese in the first episode is an effective metaphor for the herd-like behavior and panic of the assembled crowd on the train platform. The lone Gipsy and his bear, left behind to wander along the empty tracks, are exotic and poignant symbols of isolation and of the outcasts and vagabonds of war. The town fool symbolizes the insanity and scourge of war – and evokes, even in his madness, the fearful authority of an Old Testament prophet. The terrible exactions of guerrilla war fought against forbidding odds are perhaps never better captured than in the middle episode of the film. It echoes the framework established by official historians of the Partisan war, who divide it into seven major offensives in which superior enemy forces attempted to encircle and annihilate Tito’s main forces. Each time the ring was broken, and, after suffering terrible losses, the Partisan regrouped, grew in strength and fought again.
In the film, the metaphor of encirclement is evoked in miniature and in concrete human detail as the German patrol closes in on Milos and his comrade in the tall marsh grasses, and again when German patrol surrounds and riddles the burning hut with bullets. Harsh and relentless pursuit, complete mastery of the skies and superior armaments and numbers test the limits of human endurance and take their tragic toll – the cruel death of one Partisan and the agony and despair of the survivor. There are no false heroics, no set little speeches, no attempts to minimize or restrict the full range of human emotions and reactions to such brutal circumstances. In the final episode of the film, peaceful bucolic images of traditional Yugoslav rural life symbolize the return to normalcy and revitalization. These processes are disturbed, however, by the continuing reprisals of war – symbolized most poignantly by the harsh and perfunctory execution of the young woman.
A review from the New York Times from 1967 when it was nominated for Best foreign film at the Academy Awards
War’s utter bestiality and waste, usually illustrated by armies, is brought into sharp focus by a talented few in “Three,” a prize-winning Yugoslav drama that treats its bleak and harrowing subject with a grim but poetic artistry. It had a showing at the New York Film Festival last year, and is now at the Studio Cinema and 72d Street Theaters. The film is mystifyingly abrupt in its transitions, but its effects, physical and intellectual, are unmistakably forceful and chilling. The director, Aleksandar Petrovic, with the aid of a sparse script and stunning photography by Tomislav Pinter, has pointed up war’s ravages as it affects one partisan’s fights in one small sector of the conflict. In each of three events he is part of, needless death brought about by fear, despair and defeat.