Directed by Andrei Zvyagintsev.
Starring Vladimir Garin, Ivan Dobronravov, Konstantin Lavronenko
Venice Film Festival 2003 Won 'CinemAvvenire' Award Best First Film; Golden Lion; Luigi De Laurentiis Award; SIGNIS Award; Sergio Trasatti Award / Cottbus Film Festival of Young East European Cinema 2003 Won Award of the Ecumenical Jury; Special Prize Feature Film Competition For best direction
• César Awards, France 2004 Nominated César Best Foreign Film (Meilleur film étranger)
• European Film Awards 2003 Won European Discovery of the Year
• Fajr Film Festival 2004 Won Crystal Simorgh International Competition: Best Film
• Gijón International Film Festival 2003 Won Best Actor: Ivan Dobronravov, Tied with Vladimir Garin for Vozvrashcheniye (2003) and Konstantin Lavronenko; Best Screenplay; Special Jury Award
• Ljubljana International Film Festival 2003 Won Kingfisher Award
• Nika Awards 2004 Won Nika Best Cinematographer; Best Film
• Palm Springs International Film Festival 2004 Won FIPRESCI Prize
• Russian Guild of Film Critics 2003 Won Golden Aries Best Cinematography; Best Debut; Best Film
• Thessaloniki Film Festival 2003 Won FIPRESCI Prize - Special Mention
• Tromsø International Film Festival 2004 Won Audience Award
Andrey Zvyagintsev Talks About "The Return"
The Return, a first feature from Siberian-born Andrey Zvyagintsev, has sparked excitement along the festival circuit and copped a slew of awards. An allegorical thriller with echoes of Andrei Tarkovsky, the film took the Golden Lion in Venice, along with Best First Film; Discovery of the Year from the European Film Academy Awards; and was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globes. The triumph in Venice -- the first for a debut Russian film since Tarkovsky won the Golden Lion in 1962 -- also compelled the Russians to applaud Zvyagintsev, who is an outsider in his own country.
On its surface "The Return" is an intimate look at rebellion against patriarchal authority -- yet that description does little to conjure its meta-meaning, which will be hotly debated by cinephiles. Vanya and Andrey, two young brothers, run home after a fight with neighborhood kids to discover their father has returned after a 12-year absence. With the half-hearted blessing of their mother, they set out with the tactiturn father, who they've known only from a faded photo, on what they believe will be a fishing vacation. An inscrutable bully, the father incurs Vanya's growing defiance: What if he's a murderer? he asks his older brother; How do we even know he's our father? Eventually the truck stops, cafes, and lakes -- shot in a disquieting crepuscular light -- give way to the primeval wilderness coastline. The three embark on a boat for a remote island; the boys don't know it, but the father hopes to unearth a mysterious strongbox there. Growing ever more rebellious and belligerent, Vanya steals the man's knife, and escalating tensions precipitate a tragedy that has felt inevitable from the outset.
indieWIRE: How did you come to filmmaking?
Andrey Zvyagintsev: I knew, starting in 10th grade, I wanted to be in theater and an actor. I went to acting school in Siberia, but there was no future there -- and I was consumed with ambition. So I enrolled in the Acting Department of Moscow State Theatre School. Then I went into experimental theater, performing in theater labs.
iW: When did you move from theater to film?
Zvyagintsev: 1993 was a bad year in Russia post-Perestroika and I had trouble finding work. So I took a job filming a commercial for a furniture store. I learned the craft that way, came to understand the shooting process. I was blown away by "l'Avventura," and gorged on the films of the '60s, "Rocco and his Brothers," and Rohmer.
iW: How did you make the leap from commercials to a feature?
Zvyagintsev: I got discovered by Dimitri Lesnevsky, my producer, who's one of the co-founders of the Russian network Ren-TV. I think of him as my godfather. He hired me to direct three episodes of a Russian TV series, "Black Room."
After that he asked me to make a movie from a screenplay of "The Return," which I transformed. It was a genre film, a thriller. I wanted to give the audience a sense of time passing, so I added the division into seven days. In the original screenplay, the father's box was an object coveted by bandits and the audience ended up learning its contents! Plot devices took precedence over pure drama. Lesnevksy let me do as I pleased with the screenplay.
iW: What was your budget?
Zvyagintsev: $500,000. We filmed in 35mm, but used video for the underwater scenes.
iW: How did you find the two boys?
Zvyagintsev: I held screen tests for six months in St. Petersburg and Moscow. I worried about the boy who played Andrey. He'd been in a car accident and had an attention deficit, it so I took a risk casting him. For the father I found an oddball actor, who'd held himself back because he'd become ashamed of performing on stage. That brought us closer together. I had been overcome with a similar feeling and that was why I didn't have a career in the theater.