Monday, March 31, 2014

They Came Back / The Returned / Les Revenants (2004).

As someone who has relatively recently lost a loved one, the idea of this film resonated deeply with me.

The plot (and that of the TV show adaptation, which I'm still in two minds about watching) deals with a well trodden genre idea: the dead coming back to life. But here, it's not in a conventionally horrific way. This is all very civilised - which makes it that much more creepy, if you ask me.

The recently risen calmly stroll out of the cemetery in their pastel clothes.

It was the questions Les Revenants raised with me that I found interesting. Would you want a dead relative back, really? It's easy to jump to a "yes" response, but what about the small-print? What if they come back and they are "broken" in some way?

I was reminded of the Buffy episode Forever, where Dawn tries to bring her mum back from the dead with black magic. We never see Joyce reanimated, but the viewer is led to believe that it would be more of a zombie-Joyce than the lovely Summers matriarch we grew to love. Eventually Dawn realises this thing would not be the same as having her mother back, and breaks the spell before it appears.

So what if you could have your loved one back and they were nearly normal? Good enough? But what if they came back suddenly, without warning, after you have learned to live with your loss?

Of course you want not to have had a close relative die at all, but the "returned" here aren't jumping back to a time pre-death; this plot deals with them coming back after their demise (natural or not), after their families have grieved and gone some way to reconcile and move on. And these aren't violent zombies, they are recognisable enough as their old selves, and yet they aren't the same as before. Something is... off. They seem detached from the world. The town eventually decides to almost class them as a type of "disabled" citizen, as even though they can function in society to a degree, they can't carry out some roles. They have the knowledge they died with, however they cannot seem to learn and grow from that.

So how much do you want them back? Would you want that person returned to you, even if they weren't quite as before, as you remember and love them? How much is too much to put up with, for merely having them in your life again? It's a heartbreaking and terrifying series of questions. 

Two of the characters in this film are a married couple whose young son was tragically killed. When he returns, they deal in different ways with absorbing him back into their lives, especially once his behaviour starts to become increasingly (more) odd. His life was cut short and this is another chance - but at what cost?

For such an interesting premise, executed in the main with a very eerie and atmospheric build, the ending to this film ultimately fell flat for me. It was a bit of a Lost situation: I don't know what I expected, but I was still disappointed! However I would recommend this to anyone in the mood for a very still, thought-provoking film.

Anyone seen the TV show? Thoughts, comments on it? Does it explore what I have touched upon above, and more? I always thought a victim of murder would be an interesting returnee, too.