The Return was recommended to me by one of my Russian friend two years ago. I watched this recently and the premise seem quite interesting to me, the reasons amid plenty as i haven’t seen many of Russian films for a while. This subject is a very contemporary and told in a complex story form, set in the wilderness. The Director of this movie is Andrey Zvyagintsev, who also happened to win Golden Lion at Venice Film Festival in his debut venture
The Return is the tale of two brothers: Andrei who is about 16 years old and his brother Ivan who is about 12 years old. They have quite distinct personalities and fight often but they get along well. One day, they fight in front of their friends and come back home running. When they arrive their mother tells them to be quiet because their father is asleep. They are both astounded: their father?
Their father is back, indeed, after twelve years without any news. There is no warm welcome back, and after a sober dinner, the father announces that he will take them on a trip for a few days. The trip begins and the tension starts to rise as the father has a very commanding and distant tone, barely ever talking about himself or his plans, only speaking to give out orders or ask whether the boys are hungry. Andrei takes the discipline quite well but Ivan has a hard time and his rebellious and emotional personality pushes him to defy his father often. The father puts the young boys through the test time and time again, while making mysterious phone calls and extending their journey because of some business trip, he tells them to get on the bus and go back home. Only to pick them back shortly after, the boys want to go fishing but when they catch some, their father doesn’t want any fish. The father has a plan and he brings them to a deserted island with no explanation. There their triangular relationships will be put to the test.
What struck me at first was the bare, yet beautiful Russian land and lakes that we are taken through with all the green patch of land and mysterious inhabited lakes. The story holds a great deal of mystery as the character of the father remains silent about his intentions and his threatening demeanor prevents the boys from asking too many questions. When Ivan, in one of his rages bluntly asks what they are doing here, the father does not answer.
The three central characters are intense and flawed in a very human way. Although taken for granted, the question of the real father’s identity is always at the back of the viewer’s mind. Is he the boy’s father? The mother said so, yet the mother seems just as mysterious. What is the father searching for on the island? We will never know and it probably doesn’t matter because the film feels complete without knowing everything.
The whole film is psychological and deep into the character’s mind, and the fact that it is set in the wilderness simply adds to it. At times we feel really lost, as lost as the boys who don’t know where they are, why they are there and with whom. In terms of education and parenting, this movie is really puzzling. The rough treatment that the father uses seems to work on Andrei but only makes Ivan more rebellious and makes it harder for him to confide in Andrei. The brothers are at time very close in their psychological as well as physical pain, yet they clearly take it differently. Ivan, who is less of a daredevil than his brother when it comes to jumping from heights or fighting, turns out to defy his father straight-on, clueless about the consequences it can have. I think there is a great deal to be analyzed about those formative years in the life of a young man.
The Return’ is made to look incomplete as the director deliberately does not open up the inner feelings to the level of transcending the small bit of communiqué among one another. This void was often filled with various speculations and interpretations, especially among critics who saw the film’s story as religious allegory or tacit condemnation of President Putin’s neo-authoritarian policies. Regardless of this, The Return’ deserves praise as more than simply a good film. Its title is quite fitting, because it represents magnificent return of a great cinema tradition to the world stage.
- Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev
- Produced by Yelena Kovalyova & Dmitry Lesnevsky
- Written by Vladimir Moiseyenko & Aleksandr Novototsky
- Casting: Vladimir Garin; Ivan Dobronravov; Konstantin Lavronenko & Natalia Vdovina
- Music by Andrei Dergatchev
- Distributed by Kino International (US)
- Release dates: 25 June 2003
- Running time of 105 minutes
- Country: Russia
- Language: Russian