Jun 11, 2022
The dramatic feature Three Headed Beast is the story of the joys and sorrows of a bisexual polyamorous relationship. Containing almost no dialogue, nearly all of the story is told in movement and body language, backed by an extraordinary soundtrack mix of classical-style piano and pop tunes as well. Written and directed by Fernando Andrés and Tyler Rugh, the film follows partners Nina (Dani Hurtado) and Peter (Jacob Shatz). They are both bisexual, and their relationship is an open one. Peter has a regular boyfriend in Alex (Cody Shook), while Nina has some friends with benefits, but no one she has as strong a bond with in her outside relationships as Peter does with Alex.
It becomes clear soon enough that Peter is ambivalent about his life situation but seems reluctant to make the break with Nina to be with Alex full time. Nina, of course, senses something is wrong between them and is seen dealing with her own uncertainty and sadness. The movie’s pivotal moments come when Peter and Nina invite Alex to a dinner party. The couple is planning a hiking trip, and Alex has agreed to look after their dog while they are away, but Nina wants to meet Alex first. Alex arrives for the awkward dinner, where each of them must discover their place in this new dynamic.
“…Peter is ambivalent about his life situation but seems reluctant to make the break with Nina to be with Alex full time.”
This is also the only part of Three Headed Beast with sustained dialogue. All three attempt to make the situation pleasant for everyone, which only amplifies everyone’s discomfort. The effort to stabilize the three-way affair backfires, leaving each of them more uncertain about what the future will bring. As with all relationships, the party with the least emotional investment has all the power; in this case, that’s Peter. Both Alex and Nina seem to cling tightly to Peter while he is left to decide whether and how to act.
After the dinner and onto the hiking trip, the dialogue is gone again, and the film is back to the lively soundtrack and knowing facial expressions. The lack of dialogue is a hard adjustment and often seems forced. It becomes an intrusion in the natural flow of observing people interact when they are clearly trying hard not to speak. That pulls the viewer out of the moment.
However, there is a positive aspect to the experimental approach that Rugh and Andrés take with Three Headed Beast. The lack of talking means the viewer has time to study more of every shot and to really get lost in the emotion of the moment without having to parse the language of spoken lines. It’s arguably a worthwhile trade-off.
Three Headed Beast screened at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival.