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If Tarkovsky Returned As A Zombie, He'd Go See This Film
I'll admit, Campillo's "Les Revenants" is several artistic steps below (and two hours shorter than) any Tarkovsky epic. But as I watched the film, I couldn't get Tarkovsky's original "Solaris" out of my mind. The two films share a kind of somnambulist's sadness, a lumbering quality of going nowhere slowly, a dreaminess that falls somewhere between irritating nightmare and ho-hum sexdream. Oh, and both movies are populated with previously dead people, of course.
"Solaris" and "Les Revenants" pose similar questions as well: Are we dealing with actual "returnees," or are we simply struggling with the very palpable memories of those who have passed on? (Think about how "empty" the zombies are in both films and how they just sort of fade away--physically or spiritually--in both films.) Are these returnees dangerous to us? Or are we simply harming ourselves? More poignant, are WE the actual zombies? Hmmmm, hard to say. The film doesn't offer up any easy answers either as we see the crypt-dwellers attempting to return to their lives in the little French village as if things were...just fine.
And regarding the lack of answers, we also never find out what it was like to actually be dead either. If anything annoyed me about Campillo's "avant zombie flick," it's that. I kept waiting, wondering, would someone finally ask their deceased relative or returnee-loved-one lounging in bed next to them: "So, what's the afterlife like exactly? I mean, did that coffin get cramped? Did lying in the ground for ten years get irritating? Did you ever get the urge to roll over but didn't have enough room to maneuver? Would you choose cremation next time around, or would you just take a battery-powered TV with you into your grave next time?" But none of those topics ever came up. Of course, such a conversation really wouldn't have fit the arty tenor of the movie anyway.
But COME ON! ADMIT IT! These are precisely the weighty issues we want to hear about from experienced dead folks, right? I mean if you are having a picnic with a zombie (and YOU aren't the picnic, that is) you're gonna ask. You know you would.
I realize it is unlikely this movie would exist if it weren't for the wonderful Romero and his ilk. But overall, I offer a hearty kudos to Campillo for breathing life into the long-dead zombie subgenre. There are SO MANY zombie films out there (they seem to appear weekly), and I admit that I grew up digesting many of those Italian, German, and English delights. But with age and experience, you eventually tire of fast food, and you realize that the next "Zombie Intestine Massacre" flick is simply and mindlessly repeating itself so that every SPFX guy on the studio lot can keep his or her job. That's fine. But kiddies looking for gut-munching scenes will find none here--let them go elsewhere and leave the adults in peace.
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