Wanted: Tower from the movie The Return

The Return (Russian: Возвращение) is a 2003 Russian drama film directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev. Its director is also known for his movies The Banishment (Изгнание), Elena (Елена) and Leviathan (Левиафан). I have seen The Return several times, and still consider it as one of my favorites. The movie tells the story of Andrey and Ivan who meet again with their father after a 12-year absence. The three of them go on a fishing trip together, to make up for the missing years. The viewer follows how their complicated relationship evolves during their trip.

One of the scenes that I like the most, is the opening scene. A group of boys – including Andrey and Ivan – are standing on a wooden tower on the edge of a lake, daring each other to jump of it into the water. Everyone jumps, except Ivan – the youngest – as he is afraid of heights.

The scene impresses me for multiple reasons. First of all, the scene is shot on a beautiful location, where a long pier stretches itself into a seemingly endless lake, with on the end of it a decayed wooden tower. The scene is filmed with a blue filter, giving it a rather dark atmosphere.

Another reason, is that once, I had to learn this opening scene by heart. A girl from Moscow once helped me with my Russian study, and gave me the assignment to watch the movie, and learn the dialogues of the opening scene by heart. Now, every time I watch the movie, I can lip-sync its beginning (Прыгаем, как договаривались…).

The last reason is a sorrowful one. Vladimir Garin, the actor who played Andrey in the movie, died in a tragic accident shortly after the movie was shot. A year after everything was filmed and two months before its world premiere, Vladimir drowned in one of the lakes where the movie was shot. The accident has haunting echoes of the opening scene of The Return.

I have been looking for the place where this scene was shot for quite some time. I know that the entire film has been shot in the area between the Ladoga Lake and the Gulf of Finland, so the tower has to be somewhere close to Saint Petersburg. However, I did never manage to find its exact location. If anyone knows where the opening scene was shot, please let me know, as I would like to see this special place with my own eyes.

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Posted by Ramon Wensink

My name is Ramon and currently I study Russian at the Liden & Denz Institute in Saint Petersburg. During my stay in this marvelous city, I will try to inform and entertain you with various articles.

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