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Nostos: The Return (1990)

Nostos: Il ritorno (original title)
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At the end of the war, Odysseus, the wandering hero, with his companions begins his sail back home to the Mediterranean. The conclusion of his adventure is delayed by many natural obstacles... See full summary »

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Cast overview:
Luigi Mezzanotte ...
Odysseus
Branca de Camargo ...
Calypso
Alex Carozzo
Paola Agosti
Giuseppe Marcoli
Mariella Fabbris
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At the end of the war, Odysseus, the wandering hero, with his companions begins his sail back home to the Mediterranean. The conclusion of his adventure is delayed by many natural obstacles and he takes an internal journey of fleeting memories of his childhood, his parents, love for a beautiful girl, nostalgia for the past, regret for what he did, and the deep silence that envelops everything. He confronts the most terrible loneliness following a shipwreck in which all the comrades perish. Written by Steve

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A haunting journey through inner and outer landscapes
6 March 2012 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

When I went on a boat trip around the UK about six years back, we'd occasionally encounter these glassy, marble-like stretches of water. A friend dubbed them "The Siren's Strait". We became ensnared in that Siren's Strait a few times over the month-long journey. I remember one time, just after sunrise, when a dolphin, who was treated by the marina we were staying at that night as their communal pet, followed us out to sea and writhed about on the surface, occasionally breaking the silence with its whistles. I don't know how long we remained there with that dolphin but by the time the sun had fully risen it had completely disappeared and we set off on our way.

I hadn't thought of that moment until I watched this film a few days ago. On one level it functions as the archetypal story of Odysseus and his struggle to return home. His ship, his garb, his language (what little dialogue in the movie is mostly in Ancient Hellenic- the film comes with no subtitles) and the occasional buildings he encounters are all perfectly designed to match the Hellenic period. On another, more resonating level, Nostos feels like being given a first-person journey through some of the world's most beautiful locales and scenery. Despite being at the tail-end of a forty-hour day, I sat there in rapt attention and my interest didn't waver once.

Certain shots and images stand out, most of which appeared as memories or reveries: the main character swimming into a huge reflection of the moon, his body's movements as seen from above almost resembling those of an angel; Odysseus' feral screams during a nighttime battle of Troy that continues to haunt him throughout the film; a visit to a beautiful sea cave in which can be heard the distant echoes of whale-song; travailing the mountainous ruins of gargantuan buildings of an earlier age in which are strewn about the bodies of his shipmates; dream-walking through the Knossos labyrinth with what I think was possibly the grunting of the Minotaur audible in the background; amazing shadowy verdant jungles replete with peacocks and clear water streams. This film is a heartfelt love letter to nature that I'd forward onto every urbanite who's forgotten that even mankind's greatest and most ingenious work of art can hardly measure up to a single ragged grassy field in beauty.

There are maybe a few contrived moments of symbolism that could potentially break the spell for some viewers, the spinning (hula) hoop in particular, but the gentle editing and general feeling of awe swept those thoughts out of my head.

I could see this film appealing to a much larger audience than it has. There is no real language barrier as the dialogue is all but meaningless. It shows language up as the glorified bleating it generally is. There aren't too many of the riddles and snares that you often find in the "arthouse". I don't think it's overly-portentous and it's probably got just enough of a wisp of a plot to hold most viewers' attention. Watch it yourself and spread the word.


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