In a Russian coastal town, Kolya is forced to fight the corrupt mayor when he is told that his house will be demolished. He recruits a lawyer friend to help, but the man's arrival brings further misfortune for Kolya and his family.
Dima Nikitin is an ordinary honest plumber who suddenly decides to face the corrupt system of local politics in order to save the lives of 800 inhabitants of an old dormitory, which is about to collapse.
Georges and Anne are an octogenarian couple. They are cultivated, retired music teachers. Their daughter, also a musician, lives in Britain with her family. One day, Anne has a stroke, and the couple's bond of love is severely tested.
The events of the film unfold over six days and tell about the mysterious journey of a strange man and his two teenage sons who had never seen him before. Vanya and Andrey, for how long they remember, lived with their mother, who once told them that their father was a pilot. But one ordinary Monday, dad appears in their house and takes the brothers on a hike to a small island in the middle of a forest lake.Written by
Official submission of Russia for the 'Best Foreign Language Film' category of the 76th Academy Awards in 2004. See more »
When Ivan is sitting in the car, the camera pans around the car (before we see him grab the binoculars and begin to use them) - as it pans past the triangular car window you can see the camera reflected in it. See more »
[on-screen caption: Sunday]
[boy falls in the water, then floats up]
Jump as we agreed! Who climbs down the ladder is a cowardly wanker.
[swims to the shore]
Boy on Tower:
Go on, Vityok. You're next.
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This film's power is revealed in the contrast between the events as they play out and the questions generated by the enigmatic final moments. It worked firstly as a mysterious, psychological drama, but once the film had ended, it fit the definition of the term allegory perfectly.
"The Return" makes a compelling case in favor of a poetically complex narrative over the expectations of 'The Hollywood Ending', where life eventually makes some kind of sense. The absence of a father can create a psychological 'presence' for the family, both seen and felt in the emotional interaction of the children. This complex, yet all too human condition is played out here, not as a narrative sleight of hand (The Sixth Sense) but rather as film poetry. Life's hardest truths sit like a stone in the mouth and won't be broken down easily. The characters in this film seem to be struggling with the absence of their father, but doing so with him present.
Visual cues which seem to lead to a metaphorical reading of what's happening are scattered throughout the film. For example, when the the boys see their sleeping father for the first time, he's viewed as Andrea Mantegna's "Dead Christ". The boys dash upstairs immediately afterwords to see if he looks like their father from an old photo. It seems that it's been loosely placed in an old book of engravings - on the page where the angel stays Abraham's hand before he sacrifices his son. Then there is the repeated image of the tower, seeming to both foreshadow and justify a fear of death for the youngest brother. And the mysterious journey to an island, the significance of which changes them all. These don't appear as kitsch cues (as in, "this image stands for this specific idea.") but appear as symbols whose meaning is more poetic than literal. They're tied to the story and can't be extracted. In true Tarkovskian form the filmmaker has bled his symbols of universal references and made them about the characters.
And there's the profoundly enigmatic manner of the father, existing for the two brothers in terms of curt preoccupation, edicts, veiled threats, detachment and blunt instruction. He could very well not be there. This causes both boys to respond to him with a mix of outrage, incredulity and bitterness.
Its a rare film, well worth seeing, if for no other reason than to marvel at the elegiac force of the story, the photography and at the performances that the director managed to coax from his actors. Both the boys in particular are astonishingly subtle. Highly recommended.
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