The more I think about The Return, the more it grows on me. I watched this in class yesterday, and my teacher introduced it as something of a neo-Tarkovsky, at least in style. While I’m not entirely familiar with his work, I can understand where he’s coming from, especially stylistically. It’s easily one of the best looking films I’ve seen in years, as every scene seems drenched with water and every shot constructed with meticulous attention to detail. One has a sense of watching a film, and I mean this in the best way possible. The film is painted broadly, as the characters are at the very least archetypes of classic ideals and stereotypes. The exploration of the father figure in particular is fascinating, as clearly he is trying his best but is doomed to failure because he is never there. It’s an obvious, but crucial fault that he can’t be a good father because he was absent, and his son can never trust him because he was gone for so long.
Some suggest the father figure best represents “Mother Russia”, a somewhat useless and distant presence that appears now and then under a veil of good intentions, but without the knowledge or capabilities to actually help anyone. Not culturally, and only somewhat politically familiar with Russia I can’t really defend or argue the point. On a broader analysis, it makes sense though, and the thinly painted lives of the characters lend themselves to this kind of interpretation. While the film never condemns his actions, it does work hard at invoking a mistrust in his actions and life. It’s clear there are many lies enveloping our understanding of him, and as a result we can never truly appreciate his efforts to be a good father.
The film’s final act is an eruption of emotions and confrontations as characters finally come to terms with their experiences. It’s one of the most surprising and emotionally involving finales in recent years. On repeated viewings, I actually think The Return might be included among my favourites. Really a startling and beautiful film.