I must have watched The Return three or four times now, several years apart, and each time I am left with a very strong impression. Set against the backdrop of the desolate wilderness of Northern Russia, The Return is an arresting film by first-time director Andrey Zvyagintsev. On its release, the film took most critics by surprise and it eventually picked up the Golden Lion at the 2003 Venice Film Festival.

The Return1

After twelve years of absence, two young brothers have to deal with the return of their father, a man they only know from a single black-and-white photograph. Leaving their mother behind, the two boys and their father set for what will turn out to be a memorable and eventually tragic camping and fishing trip to a deserted island across a vast empty lake.

The Return2

The minimalist soundtrack, a mixture of light electronica with sounds, voices and two folk songs, was composed by Andrey Dergatchev, also a first time composer for cinema. As a technical prerequisite for the soundtrack, Andrey Zvyagintsev told the composer “that there should be no notes in the music”. As a result, only two of the tracks used at the start of the film and as the end credit rolls (Titles run and Final titles above) are “rhythmic tunes”. This is nevertheless a compelling score that underpins to perfection the flawless cinematography of this must see tale of initiation.