Tag Archives: TV series

The Returned

The Returned
The Returned

Format: DVD

Release date: 22 July 2013

Distributor: Arrow Films

Director: Robin Campillo

Writers: Robin Campillo, Brigitte Tijou

Cast: Géraldine Pailhas, Jonathan Zaccaï, Frédéric Pierrot

Original Title: Les Revenants

France 2004

102 mins

Those with only a fleeting interest in current TV listings would still be hard pressed not to have noticed the groundswell of interest in and (largely) glowing reviews of Channel 4’s new Sunday night supernatural series, The Returned. This slow burning, eight-episode French import posits a scenario in which random, dead ex-residents of a small, isolated town are inexplicably resurrected. With the Z word only mentioned once to date – and the resurrected showing no outward signs of their official post-mortem state – The Returned is focused more on the interpersonal and familial tensions wrought by the situation than it is by the ‘horror’ of it. To coincide with the series’ UK airing, Arrow Films are releasing the original 2004 movie by full-time editor and part-time director Robin Campillo on which the series is based. Originally released under the title Les Revenants (The Returned) in its homeland and as They Came Back on the international market, Campillo’s directorial debut is every bit as engrossing, creepy and atmospheric as its small-screen sibling.

Fans of the TV show worried that watching the movie mid-series might spoil both versions can rest easy, as only the concept of the original survived the transitional process from a feature length to long-form narrative. Though Campillo’s tale is on a wider scale – with some 70 million people worldwide having returned to life, and 13,000 alone in the town in which it is set – the tight focus on the lives (no pun intended) of the dead and those they left behind gives the film an intimate feel, making for a wholly engaging viewing experience more akin to brooding, arthouse human dramas than it is to visceral genre movies.

The Returned eschews histrionics and horror in favour of a studied look at the socio-political implications arising from the sudden return of the dead; do they still have the same rights? Are they entitled to walk back into their old jobs? How do governments – local and national – cope with the sudden extra demands on services and benefits? Issues surrounding grief, loss, love and the passage of time are addressed in an unhurried fashion, as the ‘dead’ and their loved ones try, some successfully, others not so, to adjust to the miraculous turn of events.

The clinical, observational air of The Returned brings to mind Peter Greenaway’s The Falls (1980) and Mick Jackson’s Threads (1984), with their personal stories similarly acting as micro insights into a macrocosmic situation. The Returned drifts along for most of its running time as if in a daze, a tonal, stylistic and aesthetic decision clearly reflective of the physical and mental state of the returned dead – robbed as they are of a sense of being fully ‘in the moment’, somehow alive but ‘concussed’, as one of the doctors charged with helping their reintegration into society observes. Those with mental health issues, dementia sufferers, immigrants and ex-offenders could all be seen as being embodied by the ‘dead’, the space they occupy on the margins of society reflected in the faceless dormitories, sideways glances and openly mistrustful encounters experienced by the titular hordes. However, such is the general ambiguity of the film that whether Campillo intended any metaphoric intent is open to debate. Only in its final act does the film enter into anything resembling a conventional genre narrative, and even then it fundamentally remains an oblique mystery. Controlled, thought provoking and refreshingly elusive, The Returned is a sparse, engaging and stimulating experience.

Neil Mitchell

Watch the trailer:

Whistle and I’ll Come to You

This year the BFI is making all 12 of the classic BBC films from A Ghost Story for Christmas series finally available on DVD. The first two volumes, each containing a double bill of chilling tales, including Jonathan Miller’s Whistle and I’ll Come To You (1968), were released on 20 August.

Two more volumes - each containing three tales - are released on 17 September. The films are: Lost Hearts (1973), The Treasure of Abbot Thomas (1974) and The Ash Tree (1975) - all directed by Lawrence Gordon Clark and all containing newly filmed introductions by him; The Signalman (Lawrence Gordon Clark, 1976) Stigma (Lawrence Gordon Clark, 1977) and The Ice House (Derek Lister, 1978) - with new introductions to The Signalman and Stigma by Lawrence Gordon Clark.

Comic Strip Review by Tony Hitchman
For more information on Tony Hitchman’s book Using Comic Art to Improve Speaking, Reading and Writing, please go to Amazon.

Prisoners of War

Prisoners of War

Format: DVD box set (TV series)

Release date: 16 July 2012

Distributor: Entertainment One/Arrow

Director: Gideon Raff

Writer: Gideon Raff

Original title: Hatufim

Cast: Ya&#235l Abecassis, Mili Avital, Adi Ezroni, Ishai Golan, Yoram Toledano

Israel 2009-2012

495 mins

Prisoners of War/Hatufim, the 2009 series written and directed by Gideon Raff, opens in the moment when the release of three prisoners of war is secured in tense, high-level negotiations. Seventeen years after the army reservists were taken prisoner in the midst of the Israeli-Lebanese war, the men - two alive, one nothing more than unidentifiable remains - are set free as part of a prisoner swap. During the years of their captivity, the men became icons in Israel, with their youthful faces, frozen in time, appearing on billboards and banners everywhere. But the men, brutally beaten and tortured during their imprisonment, are now shadows of their former selves.

They are reunited with their families at the airport in a perfectly executed scene, fraught with tension. Nimrod (Yoram Toledano) has a passionately loyal and devoted wife, Talya (Ya&#235l Abecassis), who spent 17 years fighting for his release, sacrificing her own life in the process. Nimrod also has a rebellious daughter who has an addiction to sleeping with older men, and a son he’s never met, who is about to be called up for military service. Uri (Ishai Golan), on the face of it, returns to nothing: his fiancée, Nurit (Mili Avital), beautiful, and demonised by the Israeli media and public for her lack of faith, gave up hope of his returning alive, married Uri’s brother and had a son. But the real mystery in Hatufim surrounds the fate of the third prisoner, Amiel, who leaves behind a distraught, grieving sister, Yael (Adi Ezroni), to try and come to terms with the death of her beloved older brother.

The men are given only a day after to spend with their families, before they are ‘debriefed’ at a special facility by Israeli intelligence agents, who believe not only that the men are hiding information about Amiel, but that they may have been ‘turned’, posing a threat to national security. Rather than being treated as victims, the men are suspects, interrogated and spied upon by their own government, even after they are allowed to finally return to their impossibly alien homes.

It’s a slick, gripping series, with some terrific performances, especially by Toledano and Golan. Made while Gideon Shalit was still being held captive by Hamas, the series was also prescient, and must have been incredibly resonant when it aired in Israel. But the problem with Hatufim is the sense that Raff tried to make it mean something to too many people. The promise of a tense, political thriller contained in the first episode never quite materialises; instead, Hatufim develops into more of an emotional, sentimental drama as the prisoners, racked with complex feelings of guilt, seek to re-connect with their families. Many of the episodes contain moments that dissolve into unsettling tearjerkers. Even the storyline involving Iris, an intelligence agent who ‘befriends’ the vulnerable and damaged Uri in order to gain information, turns into something of a love story. This melodrama can sometimes seem like a distraction from the most compelling and mystery-tinged elements of the series (while it’s hard to know just what to think of the storyline involving Amiel’s ‘ghost’).

Raff does a brilliant job evoking the problems that POWs face when returning to their families after captivity; it just feels at times that Hatufim is never sure if it wants to be a domestic drama or a thriller. In the end, it’s hard to shake the feeling, after watching the final scene of the first series, that the entire 10 episodes leading to that moment are nothing more than an elaborate set-up, a teaser, to the most compelling storyline in Hatufim. It’s only then that we get a glimpse at what really happened to Amiel. Series two is promised for later this year.

Sarah Cronin