Don’t we all know someone so desperate for attention that they will go to any extent to make sure they are still the main character? Well, that’s precisely who Tomas is in Ira Sachs’s Passages. Tomas is a promising young German film director who is very particular about his art, but his dictative nature is not limited to the film set. At the afterparty, just when his husband, Martin, had struck up a conversation with a woman, Tomas interrupted and headed to the dance floor with her. There was something about Agathe that intrigued Tomas, and she felt the same way about him. Martin left the party early, and Tomas returned the next morning. He seemed eager to share with his husband his sexual experience with a woman, but Martin was not comfortable listening to it. Martin seemed used to his husband feeling inadequate in their marriage. He chose not to indulge Tomas, but Tomas had already made up his mind about the affair.
What brought Tomas and Agathe together?
Tomas started to enjoy sneaking away to meet Agathe again and again. Martin knew Tomas too well, and he could sense what Tomas was up to every time he lied about going to work late at night. While Tomas was exuberant, Martin was calm. He was mature enough to analyze a situation, and he knew where to draw the line. The nature of Martin and Tomas’s relationship is not explained, but Martin initially did not protest about his involvement with Agathe. He assumed it to be a one-time incident or maybe just a fling, but when he noticed Tomas’ indifference to him lying by his side, Martin decided he had had enough. Martin was not a victim in Passages; he was well aware of his boundaries, and he was capable of leaving when there was a lack of respect. He stopped Tomas when he tried to emotionally manipulate him and, in a way, blamed him for the lack of spark in their marriage.
Tomas, on the other hand, enjoyed being the one in control. Martin once remarked that he always complained about their marriage when he returned from a film shoot, suggesting that he searched for control in his personal space when he retired from his role as a director. He enjoyed the thrill of being with a woman. It was something that was unexpected of him; he perhaps also discovered a different side of himself, and all of it together resulted in a euphoric experience. He believed he no longer needed Martin, and he derived pleasure from the idea of causing him pain.
Agathe was a school teacher and had recently broken up with her boyfriend. She was available, and the German director caught her attention. She never said that she wanted their affair to be permanent. She was going with the flow just like Tomas, and it could have remained that way if Tomas was not his self-absorbed self. He felt the compulsive need to be her only lover, her center of affection, and it was perhaps the only reason why he expressed his love for her. Martin did not stop Tomas from leaving. He was ready to sell their cottage as well, but Tomas was against it. Martin was aware that, even though ending the marriage was Tomas’ idea, he would not make the process any easier. He tried to cope with the situation in his own way. He had recently befriended a writer, Amad, and enjoyed his company.
Why did Tomas and Martin get back together?
From the moment Tomas realized that Martin had taken an interest in Amad, he lost his cool. He was busy comparing himself to Amad, and it did not make it any easier when Agathe stated how she enjoyed reading Amad’s novel and how profound he was as a person. Even though Tomas did not like Amad, he was particularly repulsed by the thought that Martin found him interesting. Tomas wanted to believe he was irreplaceable, but here he was, wondering if his ex-husband had already moved on. He had won Agathe’s love and trust, and now he needed to win Martin back. More than being emotionally attached to his partners, Tomas struggled to accept that the people he manipulated could have a life of their own that did not involve him. Tomas tried to establish that he was still a part of Martin’s life. He entered Martin’s place whenever he pleased, and as a result, he ended up meeting Amad at the apartment. Tomas’ doubt was now certain; Martin was trying to move on, and he was seeing someone else.
Tomas refused to hand over to Martin the keys to his apartment. He wanted to continue to be a part of Martin’s life, and it was obvious that Martin was still vulnerable and emotionally attached to him. Tomas started to repeatedly show up in Martin’s life, even though he pretended to have cut ties with him in front of Agathe. One night, Tomas walked into Martin’s apartment and demanded to stay the night to accompany Martin to their cottage the next morning. Martin was still in love with Tomas, and as much as he tried to ignore him, it was difficult. Martin and Tomas ended up spending the night together. The next morning, Tomas announced that Agathe was pregnant. The news came as a shock to Martin, and he wondered if Tomas slept with him only to make the news a little less hurtful. Both Tomas and Agathe wanted to have the baby, and Tomas hoped it would not be a problem for Martin. Tomas knew that Martin always wanted to become a father, and he wondered if Martin would want to become a co-parent.
Who did Tomas end up with?
Agathe’s parents were not impressed with Tomas. They found his approach to the pregnancy quite casual, and they wondered if Agathe was making the right decision. Tomas was overwhelmed by it all, and he sought solace in Martin. Tomas believed that Martin would not mind being with him and Agathe once he learned about the baby, but things did not go according to his plan. Tomas could not deal with the situation alone, and he banged on Martin’s door in search of support. Martin initially behaved strictly with him, but Tomas was a brilliant manipulator, and Martin started to believe that maybe the three of them could together make it work. And his dream of becoming a parent could also be fulfilled. Martin was hopeful, but Amad knew he was making a huge mistake. He was certain that the toxicity in their relationship would damage both Martin and Tomas, but Martin wanted to give their marriage another chance. Martin, Tomas, Agathe, and their friends gathered at their cottage. The arrangement was a little awkward for Agathe and Martin. They were both swayed by the eccentric man, and they were trying their best to hold on to the love that they felt for Tomas.
One of the most disturbing scenes in Passages is when Agathe curls herself in bed while listening to the erotic noises from Tomas and Martin’s room. That night, she realized she needed to get out of the relationship, or else she would lose herself in the process. Tomas sensed that he had messed up his relationship with Agathe, and he could not do much about it. For Agathe, it was not just about ending her relationship with Tomas but also deciding whether or not she wanted to see through the pregnancy. After the traumatic night at the cottage, she decided she wanted an abortion. Just like Martin, Agathe, too, wanted to become a parent, but Thomas was not the partner she was searching for. Tomas and Martin were back together, living in the same apartment, once Agathe left. Tomas chooses not to discuss the abortion with Martin, but at the end of Passages, he learns about it from Agathe. Martin felt cheated; he could not hold back his tears when he learned that he was not going to become a parent. It was then that he realized how little Tomas cared about him. He lured Martin to trust him again for the sake of the baby, but he did not have the courage or decency to share the news with him. All Tomas cared about was his Venice trip, his film, and his image.
During Passages‘ ending, Martin finally breaks up with Tomas and refuses to accompany him to Venice. Soon after, he gets on his bicycle and reaches the school where Agathe taught. He was on his knees, begging her to forgive him and join him on the trip. Tomas could not be alone for a minute, it seemed, and he felt completely lost when Agathe rejected him as well. Tomas struggled to accept the rejections and wandered the street on his bicycle aimlessly. Maybe even in the end, Tomas did not realize his mistake. He is so consumed by his own thoughts that he barely has time to think from someone else’s perspective. Perhaps he will portray himself as the victim to the next person he meets to gain some sympathy. The world will always seem unfair to people such as Tomas. Their failure to see themselves for who they are and their inability to work on themselves result in them being ignorant of their own mistakes. Rest assured, Tomas will be searching for someone else to accompany him on his trip, or at least to listen to him and spend the night with him. His struggle to be alone is rooted in his failure to evaluate himself. He craves attention at every given second and is mostly oblivious to the fact that people end up getting hurt because of him.