Recommended Watching: Return to Montauk

(l.) Still "Rückkehr von Montauk" © Franziska Strauss | (r.) Film Poster

Volker Schlöndorff is on the trail of Max Frisch: Return to Montauk is our latest recommended watching with Nina Hoss in the lead roll

The author Max Frisch would have turned 106 years old this week – and it’s hard to believe how topical his subject matter and publications remain despite how many years have gone by. My undisputed favorite book of his, one that was unusually formative for me, was Homo Faber (1957). I would even dare to suggest that my love of literature finds its origin exactly there. I’ve read it many times. Full of years of notes, my copy traces back to my school days and is surely one of the objects I would save should all of my belongings be threatened with disappearance from one minute to the next. I’ve even watched the 1991 film adaptation Voyager many times in its own right – Julie Delpy, Sam Shepard, and Barbara Sukowa make strong appearances in the leading roles – and dig up the DVD time and time again when I have 90 minutes and want to disappear into another world.

Now there is another film adaptation of one of the author’s books, even if, strictly speaking, you can’t exactly call it that. A friend of Frisch who garnered both acclaim and success through films such as The Tin Drum (1979) and The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum (1974), with Return to Montauk director Volker Schlöndorff now dares to borrow from Frisch’s similarly titled book. He says himself: “Return to Montauk is neither a film adaptation of the book by Max Frisch nor a travelogue, and is rather based on an original screenplay by Colm Tóibín and myself and is dedicated to the memory of Max Frisch.”

The plot, therefore, doesn’t correspond to that of Montauk, but the tenor of the content is comparable. It’s about the one love in one’s life that shouldn’t work. And so at the time when Montauk was published in 1975, Frisch was almost laughed at for finally completely letting his pants down and handling his own history with women a little too transparently. So transparently that the women who appear in the film felt their privacy was violated and erupted in a storm of indignation. But that’s maybe even the amazing thing about him: The persona of the writer lived almost stereotypically, often only in the position to create something great though suffering and despair, rotating around itself until anxiety-induced dizziness brings about primarily self-directed reflection and the exploitation of its surroundings as a setting similar to a theatrical piece.

And the film? Yeah, it’s OK. Not “wow,” but OK. Maybe a little stiff at some points and sometimes you simply don’t accept the love between the protagonists played by Nina Hoss and Stellan Skarsgård. Their performances are individually great, just not as a duet. But that doesn’t matter because – spoiler alert! – they go their separate ways in the end all the same.

Since 11th of May 2017 you can watch the movie in german theaters.

Max Frisch

Montauk: Eine Erzählung, € 8 via Amazon

Translation: Melissa Frost

Julia co-founded one of the first fashion blogs in Germany in 2007 and became a freelance consultant for digital strategies after publishing her first book in 2010. After an eventful four years with Condé Nast working mainly in the digital department of Vogue Germany, she decided to launch her own online magazine with her dream partner, Veronika Heilbrunner. She is based in Berlin and loves to read books.