Review: Return to Montauk

 
 

Director: Volker Schloendorff

Writers: Colm Tóibín and Volker Schloendorff

Starring: Stellan Skarsgård, Nina Hoss, Susanne Wolff and Isi Laborde-Edozien

Release Date: 6th October

UCD alumnus Colm Tóibín’s first screenplay, Return to Montauk, is a showcase of European creativity. Directed by German filmmaker Volker Schloendorff, shot by French cinematographer Jérôme Alméras and starring actors from Sweden (Stellan Skarsgård) and Germany (Nina Hoss, Susanne Wolff), the unique style is catching, but perhaps leaves a lot to be imagined.

The European influence on the film is evident as we follow protagonist Max Zorn (Skarsgård), a novelist in his sixties, wandering the city aimlessly and torn by heartbreak. He has returned to NYC to promote his latest book release, but being back in the city he lived in years beforehand stirs up memories for him. He is reminded at every street corner of the girl whose love still haunts him.

The film is conveniently divided into chapters for the audience, one for each day of Max’s trip. The author now has a wife (Wolff) and hasn’t seen his former flame Rebecca (Hoss) in seventeen years. He ponders the regrets in his life and his week-long stay in NYC offers him the chance to rectify one of them when he gets to spend time with the ghost of his love life.

The backdrop provides a playground for the filmmakers to explore New York City’s beauty and they use it to contrast a few of the socio-economic differences that exist. Zorn is heard asking about money on multiple occasions whenever he enters one of the other character’s homes. We learn that he is struggling financially and the people working for him aren’t paid well. The disparity between those in writing and those in the legal profession is alluded to many times. It is perhaps best summed up in the scene resembling a Mercedes commercial where Rebecca drives out of the city to buy her second home.

The cinematography is the most striking part of the movie and the film benefits from being shot on location. The music also adds to the movie’s charm. At one point, the main actors can be seen dancing to an Irish jig in an underground New York nightclub. At other times, the music is reminiscent of classic French movies of the 1960s.

Skarsgård is leaned on heavily on a couple of occasions to provide intense monologues in the form of his book readings. However, it is Hoss in Montauk who delivers perhaps the most moving monologue as she reflects on how life evolved without Max. This is the first time the audience experiences real emotion and it comes late in the film.

Max is based on Schloendorff’s friend Max Frisch, to whom the movie is dedicated.

Max is based on Schloendorff’s friend Max Frisch, to whom the movie is dedicated. The film is an indirect adaptation of Frisch’s novel Montauk.

In a nutshell: A beautifully shot movie with a bland plotline that doesn’t live up to the creative genius of Tóibín.

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