Pianissimo rather than Moderato Cantabile, Volker Schlöndorff’s Return To Montauk fails to soar despite the best possible score.
Seven Days, Seven Nightsby Mark Wilshin
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
Dedicated to Max Frisch, Volker Schlöndorff’s Return To Montauk immerses its audience in the curious emotional cocktail of Homo Faber; second round loves, writing and revisiting the past. And with Schlöndorff at the helm, accompanied by Stellan Skarsgård and Nina Hoss and with a screenplay written by Colm Tóibín, Return To Montauk couldn’t have a better pedigree. It has a strong concept, splitting its story into two women and two regrets – the one that got away and the one he hurt. Performances are strong, particularly from Nina Hoss in a stand-out scene in which she finally reveals herself to Max. And while its pacing verges on the languorous, cinematography, locations and costumes create a very handsome film.
And yet, Return To Montauk is somehow less than the sum of its parts. It’s sensitive and profound, and thanks to Tóibín’s screenplay, its dialogues feel entirely natural. But somehow the heart of its story of an unresolved love which falls through the cracks due to youthful excess and an unexpected pregnancy creates the impression of a man who doesn’t know what he wants. It transforms Skarsgård’s character into a dreamer, narcissist and now ageing lothario; a confusion that feels out of place with this alpha male. Nevertheless, Schlöndorff’s relationship drama makes for an entertaining and engaging story – intelligent, delicate and stylish.
Return To Montauk is now showing at the 67th Berlin Film Festival