There is an unknown disease spreading in a small town in Europe and Ayia and Mirra's mother falls victim to it. When Mirra also falls ill, Ayia seeks help from a local priest and friend. She finds books of his that could be of use to help Mirra, even if it means stepping into her diseased subconscious.
Russian movies are not new to being visually beautiful with director's like Tarkovsky, Eisenstein, Sokurov, Mikhail Kalatozov, Andrey Zvyagintsev and so forth. But just because a movie is from Russia doesn't mean it has to be visually stunning... or does it? I mean, I know it doesn't, but "III" is another great example that proves the importance of beautiful cinematography in movies - especially when it is its strongest asset as in the case of "III".
Two sisters, Aiya and Mirra, live in a small European town that has been struck by an epidemic that eventually kills their mother. The sisters promise to stick together to survive, but Mirra soon falls ill as well. Ayia is desparate to heal her sister from the disease, but no medical means can help. She looks for help from a priest and friend who might have literature from alternative relgions that can help. She discovers a sort of ritual that requires her to step into the subconscious of her dying sister - but that's not a pleasant place to be.
Pavel Khvaleev's feature certainly has a lot of thought put into it, with connections and symbolisms to religion, history, the subconscious and it's quite devastating at times. Unfortunately there seems to be a lot of stepping on the same spot, and it drags on for a bit at times. There is a lot of heart in this story and the way Khvaleev tells it is fascinating, but much of that it due to how visually gripping the movie is. Minus a few shots that have quite jarring color filters and bad masking, the movie is simply beautiful. Its extremely photographic and slow camera shots create a very dreamlike state.
Despite being a bit long (and dare I say boring?) even at just 80 minutes, I was captivated by its imagery. There are several disturbing dream/nightmare sequences that were far more effective than your typical horror movies. This might be because "III" is not all about the monster and blood, it's a story of a young woman struggling to save her sister. Therefor, whatever surreal world Ayia has to step into, we're dreading it more.
I think that "III" deserves more attention. Its only real flaw is that it drags a bit on the subject at times (and those little issues with color filtering). Other than that, "III" is a stunning movie with a rather disturbing, underlining atmosphere through out. Sure, it actually has some bizarre creatures and horror-like imagery, but in the end I would class this closer to a drama than anything else.