Berlinale FILM CAPSULE: Return to Montauk (Schlöndorff, 2017): Germany


Posted by Larry Gleeson.

Director Volker Schlöndorff debuts Return to Montauk, at the 67th Berlin Film Festival in Competition. Volker having previously adapted “Homo Faber” draws again from the world of Max Frisch.

Opening in spectacular fashion with titles and music swarming in and out, around, across and seemingly through the viewing screen, Return to Montauk starts out on a high note. From here the viewer is dragged down into the abysmal life of aging writer, Max Zorn Stellan Skarsgard). Well past the norm for a mid-life existential crisis, Max doesn’t seem to adhere to that adage and decides to go there anyway.

He has a beautiful and loving wife/partner in Clara (Susanne Wolff) who would walk  the ends of the earth and back for Zorn. Clara has taken up a residence in New York to make sure Max’s book receives its due publication. That being said Max seems to envision his life from some distant metaphysical space as he allows a long-forgotten affair to consume his being.

He has penned a novel detailing the affair he so flippantly discarded years earlier as he finds himself struggling to make ends meet financially. His lover, Rebecca (Nina Hoss) has moved on achieving a high-degree of success as a New York lawyer specializing in financial mergers and acquisitions.

Max can smell the money and follows the scent with support from another earlier acquaintance, Walter (Niels Arestrup), a seemingly wealthy, albeit aloof, art collector. Walter is well aware of Max’s situation and knew Max and Rebecca as a couple. Max goes all in with Rebecca.

Most of the film revolves around Max rekindling the long-ago extinguished relationship with Rebecca. The two return to Montauk where their flame had ignited years before. Unfortunately, for Max’s finances, the well is deep and dark inside. Yet, a symbiotic healing occurs and Max’s metaphysical ride continues catapulting his relationship status to an unexperienced new low. Beautiful film. Excellent casting by Cornelia von Braun, Amy Rowan, and Meredith Jacobson Marciano. Warmly recommended.

*Featured photo credit: © Franziska Strauss/




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