Götz Spielmann's Antares is one of those films that weaves together a triptych of largely unrelated stories featuring largely unrelated characters, so naturally, it begins with a car crash. The whole Short Cuts/Magnolia/Amores Perros genre relies on the idea that lives only have meaning inasmuch as they're like other lives, and the quickest way to show how everyone's the same is to inflict a shared injury, via natural disaster or man-made one. Antares' protagonists span the social classes, from Schubert-loving medical professionals to shopgirls who listen to Russian pop songs, but the characters all live in the same blocky Viennese apartments, and by the end of the film, they've been bonded by a metal-on-metal collision and a none-too-tragic fatality.
Spielmann sequences his three stories consecutively, though they occur simultaneously. In the first, Petra Morzé plays a married nurse who strikes up a sudden and torrid affair with a visiting doctor, progressing from furtive sex to blindfolds, exhibitionism, and candid photography. The second story has paranoid supermarket checker Susanne Wuest feigning a pregnancy in order to hold onto her fiancé, who's cheating on her. And in the third, Andreas Kiendl plays a keyed-up real-estate agent who vents his rage at prostitutes and his ex-wife. Sexual frustration runs through all the stories: Morzé's husband watches their budding teen daughter dance in front of her mirror, men in a club talk about the sounds their partners make during orgasm, and Wuest's fiancé pastes up suggestive billboards for a living.
Morzé's trysts are depicted explicitly, and the intense eroticism of those early sex scenes pretty much derails Antares. In the first story, Spielmann makes the irrationality of desire almost tactile, fogging the fact that little else is really going on. Stories two and three contain far more plot, but the respective lack of sensationalism produces diminishing returns. All that's left to ponder are minor details, like whether the titlewhich refers to the name of a double star on the verge of supernovais meant to have any relation to the way so many of the characters in Antares look alike. And Spielmann seems to be making a point about how in the modern age, cell phones offer a mistaken illusion of connection. For the most part, though, Antares is uneven and piddling, and suffers from the affliction that it depicts: a terminal case of bad timing.