Friday, January 16, 2015

Возвращение (The Return) (2003)

Director: Andrey Zvyaginstev
Writers:  Vladimir Moiseenko, Aleksander Novototskiy-Vlasov
Cast:       Vladimir Garin, Ivan Dobronravov, Konstantin Lavronenko
Language: Russian

In the Russian wilderness, two brothers face a range of new, conflicting emotions when their father- a man they know only through a photograph- resurfaces. The three of them take a vacation to a remote island on a lake that turns into a test of manhood of almost mythic proportions. The older brother is kind of taken to his father whereas the younger one is suspicious and hostile with him which is not at all helped by his tactic of being a tough parent.

Film is tremendously intense from start to finish summed up by the hard running during the opening credits. The reason for the father's 12 year hiatus is not explicitly given but there is some shadiness to his activities. It is used primarily as a tool to misdirect the audience's thinking as to where the film is going. He is taking the kids to the remote island where he anyway needed to go as part of doing a job. Later on, it is shown him digging for something in the island and recovering a box which he does not open. We keep thinking that it is that which brings about the confrontation between them but it happens in a different manner. The boys also discover a boat wreckage near the island and those things might be related to each other. All these remain ambiguous throughout but are secondary to the film which primarily deals with the range of emotions going through all the three characters. The father is as tough on them as the younger brother is tough on him. You can find fault in both the parties as well as justification for how they behave. It is interesting that there is no blame game between the brothers after the unfortunate event. 

Film won Golden Lion at the Venice film festival and marked the directorial debut of Andrey Zvyaginstev, whose Levithan is the favorite for winning the academy award in the foreign film category this year. He is someone who uses background music sparingly but with maximum impact. The print of 'The Return' that I watched was really poor and I wish I got a better one since the cinematography and locations seem stunning. I don't know whether the dark greenish tint to it was because of the quality of print or intentional. The performances are excellent especially the younger brother Ivan, who reminded me of Haley Joel Osmont in 'The Sixth Sense'. The director described the four characters represent the four elements: 'earth is mother, water is father, the elder brother Andrey is air and the younger brother Ivan is the fire'. In the original script Andrey was supposed to die. The actor Vladimir Garin, who played Andrey, died shortly after the film  was completed in lake not far from where the film was shot.

Rating: 4.5/5