Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Return to Montauk (4½ Stars)

"The two most important things in your life are the thing that you did and regret doing, and the thing that you didn't do and regret not doing".

That's a depressing quote, but it sets the tone for the film. It's a film about sadness and regret. There are occasional glimpses of hope, but regret is stronger than hope. Hope is the expectancy that something good might happen at some time in the future. Regret is the knowledge that something bad has already happened (alternatively that something good didn't happen), it's your own fault and nothing can be done to change it. Regret is about facts while hope is about dreams.

Max Zorn, a Skandinavian novelist who lives in Berlin, travels to New York to promote his latest novel. It's a story about a love affair he had when he lived in New York 17 years ago. He's accompanied by his wife Clara, but he feels compelled to look for Rebecca, the woman on whom the book is based. When he knew her she was a poor student, but now she's a wealthy defence lawyer. Max has been with five women over the last 17 years, but he realises now that Rebecca is the love of his life. Rebecca has had one other lover, but she still has feelings for Max. She suggests that they travel to Montauk, a place where they once spent time together.

Stellan Skarsgard and Nina Hoss are two of my favourite actors. In fact, after watching "Return to Montauk" today I have to say that Stellan is my favourite actor outright. His performance as a naive, childlike man who thinks that he can do whatever he wants is overwhelming. He knows about regrets, he repeats the quote twice, but he hopes things can be undone. Nina Hoss is pragmatic. She doesn't talk about regret, but she feels it, and she's not foolish enough to think things can be undone.

The film is based on the novel "Montauk" by Max Frisch, a book about one of his love affairs. It isn't a direct adaptation of the novel. The director Volker Schlöndorff adds to the story elements from his own life when he lived in New York in 2000, 17 years ago. Schlöndorff is telling his own story, using Max Frisch's novel as the background.

This is a deeply moving film. I couldn't help crying. Maybe not everyone will enjoy it. It's a talkie film in which very little happens. Within those parameters, it's a masterpiece.

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