sat 13/07/2024

DVD/Blu-Ray: Passages | reviews, news & interviews

DVD/Blu-Ray: Passages

DVD/Blu-Ray: Passages

Clothes play a starring role in Ira Sachs's exploration of a painful love triangle

A crop top par excellence: Franz Rogowski as TomasMubi

“I had sex with a woman. Can I tell you about it, please?” says film director Tomas (Franz Rogowski) to his husband Martin (Ben Whishaw), a printmaker. Tomas is full of excitement about his night with Agathe (Adèle Exarchopoulos); Martin is resigned, pale, doesn’t want the details. This always happens when you finish a film, he says. Take a nap, relax. But Tomas has thrown their relationship into crisis.

Relaxing is not something that comes easily to Tomas, who’s driven by his impulses and expects everyone to be endlessly indulgent of his mercurial desires. When they’re not, he crashes. He inflicts drama and chaos wherever he goes. As Rogowski remarks in a Q&A, one of the extras on this Mubi DVD/Blu-Ray release, we’ve all known a Tomas, or been hurt by one.

Director Ira Sachs built this unsettling, painful and intensely alive movie around Rogowski, having admired him in Michael Haneke’s Happy End, particularly his dance in a karaoke bar to Sia’s “Chandelier”. He stresses that wardrobe and the role of costume designer Khadija Zeggai are of primary importance. (The DVD features a fashion lookbook with conversations between Sachs and Zeggai. It also includes six art cards.)

There’s no rehearsing as such – the actors are usually hearing the lines for the first time. “It’s a dangerous place,” says Sachs, and it gives the scenes, which are sometimes improvised, a totally new quality. For him, the time spent “moving through clothes with the actors” is a kind of rehearsal: it serves to define a character and is also a way for the actors to get to know each other as they pick clothes. Rogowski remarks that he’s never spent more time trying on clothes for a movie in his life.

passagesdvdRed, as worn by Agathe with her vintage red leather jacket – Brigitte Bardot in Godard’s Contempt was an inspiration, as was Maurice Pialat’s A Nos Amours – and by Martin with his gossamer red negligée, is a symbolic colour, worn by whoever is strongest in the scene. The clothes are stars in their own right; some are from Zeggai's own wardrobe.

Tomas’s are fabulously genderless: a mesh tattoo-like crop top with a dragon motif, an oversized teddy-bear coat, a beautiful distress-knit green jumper. He’s trying on identities, never sure of who he is or where he fits in to society’s hierarchies, says Zeggai – and this is never clearer than when he meets Agathe’s bourgeois parents for lunch, where the torso-baring crop top is met with a certain amount of dismay.

He’s late, having spent a passionate night with Martin. The grass is always greener with Tomas, especially when his ex starts seeing Ahmad (Erwan Fale), a successful novelist. The sex scenes in Passages are intensely long and intimate, though there was no intimacy coordinator. “A coordinator would become another voice,” says Sachs. “It’s hard to imagine incorporating an outside person.”

When Agathe, a primary school teacher, gets pregnant, Tomas is even more determined to have it all, to raise the child with both of his lovers. And at first, Agathe is prepared to go along with this arrangement. But this love triangle works for no one. Agathe takes matters into her own hands, so does Martin, and at the end we see Tomas, alone, bicycling desperately through the streets of Paris to the jazzy strains of Albert Ayler’s “Spirits Rejoice”.

We’ve all known a Tomas, or been hurt by one


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters