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Volker Schlondorff’s Return To Montauk (2017) – Review

«Whether or not I will like Back to Montauk  will depend on whether the viewer is ready and well inspired to capture the symbols and subtleties that Volker Schlondorff offers us in every dialogue, in every scene, in every detail»


To put it briefly, Montauk is a place where an end of the possible and a beginning of the impossible can take place. Montauk is utopia. And utopia here is the desire, on the part of a mature writer and in full literary success, to get to know if what was without being it at all could regenerate itself to round off what was started, complete it and bring it to a better port. That is, the old story of the myth of Lot, which became a statue of salt when he looked back. In this case, the matter is love. Let’s go by parts.

The film was based on book

Max Zorn (Stellan Skarsgard) is a European writer who is achieving success in late maturity. The book with which he is touring New York is called The Hunted Hunter, which is an omen of what we will see later on the screen. He attends this tour with his current wife (Susanne Wolff). Also appears the figure of who takes the press affairs and others (Isi Laborde), in addition to other characters that I will save detail. And finally, a woman (Nina Hoss), resident in the city, perhaps the being who represents the best and the worst in Max’s life, his joy and suffering, heaven and hell, the representation of love and cannot (or vice versa), what could be and was not, and what I wish could become.

The story might seem like a settling of scores between people who have loved each other at different times in life. Thus, for example, we see it in the dialogues that Max establishes with each of them. However, valuing this film for what it literally tells us would mean missing it. I say this because I intuit that the director, the great Volker Schlondorff, has been captured by formality in the way of narrating the emotional skein that bundles the lives of the protagonists. I mean, what I return to Montauk Account has no interest in the literal sense. If so, we would see ourselves falling into topics about masculinity, femininity and the contrasts between both genders. However, Volker plays with symbols, parables, matches, and other subtle clues (for example, the one in the book’s title). It is also very subtle that the protagonist is a writer and his female opponent (Nina Hoss), a lawyer. It is not accidental. The writer fables, and does so even in his life, to such an extent that it seems that he could become one more character in the novel that is his existence. Max wishes his life could be controlled, routed, stamped, or reversible as he does with his novels. Hence it is easy to deduce that Max is interested in life insofar as he would like to be able to project his wishes or ideals onto it. In a novel there is a beginning, a development and an outcome, something that life very often does not offer us. On the other hand, Nina is a lawyer, she wants justice, not illusion for that lost world (symbolized in that utopia that is Montauk). Thus, we have before us the reunion and hope, on the one hand, and a verification that what is felt on the other is real and just.

I liked Back to Montauk for several reasons: for the direction, for the rhythm, for the script, for the interpretation. It is a film that has it all and lacks nothing. And if something is missing, which I believe is, it would revolve around the fact that the symbolic aspect is hidden by an excessively formal exposition regarding the narration of the events. Or, to put it another way, Back to Montaukhe would have needed a more surreal or disruptive element in the way of narrating, which would challenge the viewer to penetrate the symbolic and dreamlike dimensions that exist. But that goes to taste… and if the viewer is ready and well inspired the day he comes to see this film and capture the symbols and subtleties that Volker Schlondorff offers us in every dialogue, in every scene, in every detail.

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