The Return (12)

Showing at the FACT from 9 - 22 July

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

Released in Russia last year, The Return, which is the debut feature of Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev, and cost only £400,000 to produce, has already been distriibuted and shown in over 50 countries.

After seeiing this memorable film, which sometimes evoked the work of the famous Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky, notably in its outstanding photography and often enigmatic qualities of the plot and the characters themselves, the success of The Return comes as little surprise.

The story is based around a father who returns home after a long absence - there is never any indication as to why he originally left or why he came back - and his two son's reaction to this unexpected siituation.

He takes them on a fishing trip during which the younger boy Ivan (Ivan Dobronravov) constantly questions his motive for coming back, with his father (Konstantin Lavronenko) punishing him for his criticisms, including leaving him stranded in cold driving rain for several hours.

His brother Andrej ( Vladimar Garin) is more compliant to his father but nevertheless you sense he also has serious misgivings, and is equally confused regarding the sudden return from who knows where of his papa.

But the conflict between Ivan and his father ultimately leads to tragedy after they land on a island in order to catch fish. The father falls to his death after climbing a watch tower in pursuit of Ivan, who had earlier threatened to attack him with an axe after being scolded for returning late from a boat trip.

There are a number of intriguing elements to The Return. It is split into seven different chapters, beginning on Sunday and named after the biblical days of creation.

There are often times, as is the case with the work of Tarkovsky, when the three main protagonists appear to be alone in the world amid the bleak Northern landscape of Russia.

The soundtrack, with original music by Andrey Dergatchev, together with traditional Russian folk music, is haunting, which adds poignancy to the events taking place within the film.

One critic described the film as being a meditation on the inadequacy of traditional models of paternal authority, but The Return offers a more wide-ranging interpretation about relationships and the disintegration of family life.