The Return (Vozvrashcheniye): Special Edition (2003)

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Released 9-May-2005

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation
Theatrical Trailer-2
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-A film about the film
Gallery-Photo
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 105:52 (Case: 110)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (17:23) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Andrei Zvyagintsev
Studio
Distributor
Ren Film
Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Vladimir Garin
Ivan Dobronravov
Konstantin Lavronenko
Natalya Vdovina
Case ?
RPI $36.95 Music Andrei Dergachyov


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Russian Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English (Burned In) Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Brothers Ivan (Ivan Dobronravov) and Andrei (Vladimir Garin) appear to be a normal pair of siblings in most respects, playing with and teasing each other, often escalating to the point of blows. The boys were raised by their loving Mother and Grandmother, their Father's absence left unexplained. After an absence of more than 10 years, their father (Konstantin Lavronenko) shows up and promises to take them on a fishing trip in his car. After verifying their father's identity via an old photograph, the boys experience mixed reactions to his sudden reappearance. The eldest, Andrei, is welcoming of his Dad and addresses him respectfully, while the younger Ivan is resentful and leaks his emotions with cold disrespect. It quickly becomes apparent that Dad has ulterior motives for taking them on the trip when he frequently stops to make business phone calls and tries to dump them on a bus home. The two day trip is extended to five days to allow for more business and Ivan takes deep offence to his father's firm discipline. A couple more heavy-handed confrontations escalates their relationship into threats of violence, leading to an accidental, fatal conclusion.

    The Return is one of those uniquely memorable films that defy categorisation. The sheer claustrophobia and tension generated throughout initially makes one think it is a thriller, but it is also equal parts mystery and coming-of-age. The viewer is kept in the dark as much as the boys; the reason for the father's absence is never explained and, more importantly, the contents of a large chest he unearths while the boys are fishing are not revealed. While the lack of viewer spoon-feeding may sound a little surreal and frustrating to some, the missing pieces actually help make this film work on many levels, most of all its riveting and ultimately devastating closure. Among many other messages and symbols, the film's deepest message is relayed in a series of stills at the end, telling us that no matter how arduous or painful an experience may be, we always have the opportunity to see the positive aspects with the help of hindsight.

    This is the first feature film for Director Andrey Zvyagintsev, who cut his teeth as a director of television commercials and some Russian TV dramas. Visually, the film is stunning and deeply unnerving, reminiscent of Polanski's earlier work using tight angles and lingering shots that extend far beyond a scene's normal length. The cast is equally outstanding, particularly the beautiful but weary Mother (Natalia Vdovina). The boys are the real shining stars in the film but sadly, before the film was due to premiere at the Venice Film Festival, young actor Vladimir Garin drowned in a lake not far from where the film was shot.

    The Return is a contemplative and thought-provoking film that actually caused me to recollect some of my own childhood experiences. Having recently become a father, it made me consider my role as Dad and the kind of parent I want to be. With some confidence, I can say this film won't be appreciated by people who need every detail spelled out for them on screen and that is really unfortunate, because they'll be missing out on one of the finest pieces of cinema around.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video transfer is presented in an aspect of 1.85:1, consistent with the film's original theatrical aspect ratio. 16x9 enhancement is included.

    The frame appears to be cropped on the left, given away by the overhung titles during the closing credits at 102:48. I would suggest that the cropping is minimal, but certainly worth mentioning. In addition to this, a distracting blue line extends down the length of the far left of the frame. This is likely to go unnoticed by viewers with displays that overscan the image, however on my projector it was highly annoying at first.

    Sharpness and overall clarity is very good, in fact I noted a facial close-up at 10:01 that exhibits appreciable detail in skin texture and fine stubble. There are quite a few dark scenes in the film, and these are handled with deep blacks and realistic shadow detail. There was no low level noise evident in the transfer.

    Colouring is washed out to the extreme, almost verging on monochromatic in appearance. This is undoubtedly the director's intention.

    Given the rather low constant bitrate of 6Mb/s, you won't be surprised to hear that MPEG compression issues are present. The bitrate struggles to render some highly detailed frames of waving grass at 64:36, resulting in noticeable macro blocking. A scene containing fog at 57:43 also exhibits some obvious MPEG grain. Minimal film grain is visible and dirty film artefacts rarely become an issue. I noted a minor scratch at 13:25 and the odd watermark, but that is the extent of visible damage to the source material.

    English subtitles are burned into the image and cannot be removed. The font is white with a black outline and is very easy to read, but I did notice a couple of minor grammatical errors. A film such as this, with minimal dialogue and such outstanding atmosphere, should be provided with removable subtitles.

    This disc is dual layered (DVD9 format), with a layer transition placed during the feature at 17:23. The layer break was transparent on my system, however it appears to be well placed in a relatively quiet scene transition.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The film's original Russian language soundtrack is included, presented as a surprisingly good Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s) track. On the disc itself, this audio stream is confusingly labelled as English.

    The dialogue is always prominent and although I speak no Russian at all, all of the characters were easily discernable. The film's ADR is seamless and realistic, while audio sync is perfect.

    The use of the surround channels is subtle but effective. Birds can be heard rustling and cooing in the rear channels at 10:20, while at 56:18 the lapping of water envelops the listener beautifully. More aggressive usage of the rears is present for passing cars and the like, but in general this is more an atmospheric soundtrack than dominating.

    A distinct dropout occurs at 68:10 in the front right and rear left channels, interrupting ambient noise in the soundtrack. I found it distracting, while a family member watching the film with me didn't notice it at all. I guess it could be a matter of sensitivity, but the dropout is there nonetheless. A small pop can also be heard at 81:55 and is less distracting than the dropout.

    The film's soundtrack score is credited to Andrey Dergatchev and matches the eerie minimalism of the film superbly. Many of the passages are so subtle I can imagine many viewers would sit through the film and not realise there even was a soundtrack score.

    The subwoofer lets out a couple of rumbles as a result of the soundtrack score, and that's about it. In this film there isn't a lot of call for it, so I'm happy.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    This is a good selection of extra features for a foreign film.

Menu

    The main menu page is subtly animated, with links to play film, scene selections and special features. The scene selection menu is divided into days of the week, like the film itself.

Featurette-The Return: A film about the film (63:32)

    This lengthy Making Of covers all aspects of the film; including scripting, casting, hiring crew and makeup. Composer Andrey Dergatchev talks about his scoring process and how he came to be involved in the project. There are interviews with cast and crew, deleted scenes, screen tests and many spoilers, so I wouldn't recommend viewing this featurette prior to watching the film. Made for television, this 2004 documentary is presented in 1.33:1 with excerpts from the film presented in letterboxed widescreen. There are no chapter stops. The soundtrack is Russian and English subtitles are burned in. The subtitles suffer from poor spelling and grammar at times, and often fall out of sync with the subject.

Cast & Crew Biographies (5)

    Very brief bios and career highlights are available for the four main cast members and director.

Trailers (2)

    Both the international (2:10) and Russian (2:05) trailers are presented here in 1.85:1, without 16x9 enhancement. The international trailer includes too many plot revelations and an accented English voiceover that becomes irritating. The Russian trailer uses excerpts from the film and doesn't include any subtitles.

Photo Gallery

    A decent array of stills are presented with 16x9 enhancement and must be scrolled using your remote. Some are actual stills from the film, while others are shots taken during the film's production.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 disc claims to contain optional English subtitles and a stereo soundtrack. The Region 1 disc also includes the same excellent documentary. I presume there is some kind of Russian release but I haven't any idea of its contents.

Summary

    The Return is a rewarding and visually stimulating film that will linger with you for some time. I recommend it highly.

    The video transfer is over-compressed in places and contains English subtitles burned into the video stream.

    The audio transfer is great, aside from a minor dropout.

    The inclusion of the hour-long making-of documentary certainly makes this worthwhile.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Rob Giles (readen de bio, bork, bork, bork.)
Saturday, April 23, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-3910, using DVI output
DisplaySanyo PLV-Z2 WXGA projector. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVR-2802 Dolby EX/DTS ES Discrete
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora lll Mains (bi-wired), Rears, Centre Rear. Orpheus Centaurus .5 Front Centre. Mirage 10 inch sub.

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