One morning, a small French city wakes up to discover thousands of recently dead people walking into town. The reason why is a mystery and there is no time to look into it. Hasty reunions - some passionate, some strained ... more »- occur with their survivors. But can they be reintegrated into society when their jobs have been filled and their partners have moved on? As officials try to figure out what to do with them, the dead begin behaving in bizarre ways and it becomes apparent that the returnees are not exactly who they used to be. Robin Campillo's (co-writer of Time Out) directorial debut is a provocative look at how society copes with grief and just how hard it is to let go.« less
Very Cerebral and Non-Traditional Zombie Film - Not For Ever
Kim Anehall | Chicago, IL USA | 07/12/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A zombie film, yes, but do not expect a traditional zombie experience when viewing They Came Back. These zombies do not seek to gorge human flesh, or to frighten the audience. Instead the director Robin Campillo delivers a cerebrally stimulating narration of the return of the dead in his directorial début. Before making this non-traditional zombie film Campillo co-wrote and edited Laurent Cantet's memorable Time Out (2001), which offered a thoughtful tale of a laid-off office worker that takes his destiny in his own hands. There are stronger similarities between Time Out and They Came Back than between this zombie film and any of the more traditional zombie films such as Night of the Living Dead (1968).
Without delay the audience is informed about the sudden return of more than 70 million people, and approximately 13,000 have come back from the dead in the town in which the story takes place. These people who have returned have passed away within the last ten years, which means that there are many familiar faces among the returnees. They all wear light colored clothing and seem to be in excellent condition. This means that they will not have the familiar zombie look with decaying body parts or the peculiar gangly movement. Nothing seems to be different between them and the living with the exception of a blank and confused look on their faces.
In order to handle this sudden return of the vast number of people the authorities have taken control of most community Centers and warehouses in order to house the newly emerged population. The line of reasoning is based on identification of the returnees and to study them in more detail. In the order families discover their once lost family members the returnees can return to their old homes. However, many remain for a prolonged time in these temporary community shelters due to many various personal reasons. Nonetheless, it is evident that the people who have come back from the dead will cause additional problems to the living in several different ways.
Campillo's zombie film turns into a philosophical tale that illustrates the tangible question of what if people came back from the dead and populated earth. A wide range of notions are addressed throughout the film such as over-population, unemployment, governmental expenses, and much more. In the backdrop of political issues, the story reveals how it influences macrosociety. To further Campillo's visual manifestation of politics it could suggest an intangible concept that the human race might not be far from these issues when observing the world and its unyielding population increase.
The film also goes into great depth of how the return of deceased family member would influence the family and the individual. This view of a microsociety is delivered through three different marriages where the couples are of various ages. One family deals with the return of their dead son while the other two deal with the return of a spouse either male and female. Under close scrutiny the emotional impact seems to be emphasized on the family level. Here the viewer can experience the psychological aftermath of enduring bereavement to have these old psychological scars once again torn up. The psychological stress is not to be underestimated in a situation such as They Came Back offers, which displays an extensive array of emotional characteristics.
A vast sense of stress and anxiety rests within the film, but it never tips over when it feels overwhelming. The cast performs terrifically where they deliver genuine emotions such as confusion and a subtle apprehensive tension. The camerawork and lighting bind together the cast performances into a thick fabric where both the society and the family unit merge in an unsympathetic atmosphere where facts rule. Amidst this seemingly strong society the individual's are adrift in a disorientated emotional state while blindly reaching out for anything that could help them. All of the complexities within They Came Back offer a unique cinematic experience that encourages much philosophical contemplative work. Unfortunately, at times the film feels a little too cerebral which causes some scenes to suffer from mental congestion."
COULD'VE BEEN INGENIOUS
Anton Ilinski | Moscow, Russia | 10/14/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I want to say straight away: the concept of the film was great if not to say ingenious. This is the first movie where dead people don't act like blood and flesh-thirsty creatures, here they are "returnees" who came back and want to return to their normal lives. Just think how many possibilities can this astonishing plot afford - people who are happy to see their deceased ones, those who don't want to meet them at all because (admit it) it's pretty eerie, one of the marriage-partners returns and sees that the other one is already living happily with a new husband (wife), and what would that other person do in this situation, a murder victim meets his killer (what would be the reaction), should a murderer be judged after he's returned? There's a million questions the makers of the film could ask but they didn't. Instead they are concentrating on a couple of returnees' lives after their comeback, but this concentration doesn't lead anywhere. I can say that there are many uneasy and sombre moments in the film, the atmosphere of total incomprehension of what happened is done great, but it's one of those cases when we ask ourselves after the final credits: so what does this all mean? along with many other questions. No answers are given by the director. None. And talking of questions - if some person returns from the dead and begins to live normally among people, and if you know this person - wouldn't you want to ask him something? I bet you would. And I'm pretty sure I know exactly what you are going to ask him about. But noone asks in the movie! I was waiting for the whole 2 hours - and nothing. Just some kid tried to say something but grown-ups obturated him quickly. And noone else asks. When such things happen - I don't believe a film. Living dead are OK but not asking them about what they experienced is improbable. So I gave it 3 stars for a try but it could have been much better. Speaking frankly it could be a real masterpiece."
Return of the Living Dead, French style... Could have been s
dooby | 07/11/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This is NOT a horror movie. Neither is it really a zombie flick. It could have worked as an existentialist study but in the end it doesn't quite amount to that either.
It helps somewhat to point out that this was made in France. The French always seem to have an odd way of looking at things. Its original title was "Les Revenants" (The Returnees/The Ghosts). The basic premise is that of your typical zombie flick. Seventy million recently deceased have arisen from graves around the world. Several thousand of them are to be found in the little French town we are concerned with. These are not your typical zombies with rotting flesh and decaying clothes. They all look fresh and lively and dressed as if they were going out on a Sunday picnic. They don't appear to have any ill intent. In fact they look quite pitiable. The majority are elderly and frail. The reaction of the townsfolk is also not one of terror like in most zombie flicks, but of pragmatism - how to reintegrate them into society. I liked how the producers took this rather novel approach to the movie. The director also stated how he wanted to produce a movie exploring the process of mourning. This too would have been a fertile field to plough. However it never really seems to pan out.
We get to see how society, specifically the French bureaucracy, handles the Returnees. It is all done with cool governmental efficiency, much like any other refugee resettlement problem. Scientific studies are made which reveal that the Returnees are not like real human beings after all. They are both mentally and physically sluggish. They have low body temperatures but enhanced immunity to infections. They do not sleep and get agitated at night, wandering aimlessly for miles only to be brought back to government shelters the next morning. Pharmaceutical companies quickly develop medications to placate them. As some of them cannot function in their former jobs, they have to be retrained at a lower capacity. I thought the societal angle was very well done. The personal angle less so. The film could have explored more clearly how the living come to terms with the return of loved ones they have long given up for dead. Unfortunately it doesn't do that. Neither does it explore to any great depth the themes of loss and bereavement. It had so many possibilities. Most were just skimmed over. Instead it reverted to a standard cliché of almost all zombie movies - all zombies turn bad in the end and they can only be defeated with violence. "Les Revenants" began with an intriguing idea and novel approach that whetted the appetite but the development and ending was a letdown.
Wellspring has provided a fine transfer in the film's original 2.35:1 aspect ratio (anamorphic). Picture quality is clean, clear and sharp with bright vibrant colors, good black levels and good shadow detail, essential in a movie with lots of dark scenes. Sound is in the original French 2.0 stereo or a Dolby 5.1 remix. Optional English subtitles are provided. There is an interesting 20 minute "Making Of" featurette, cast filmographies, the theatrical trailer and four other trailers of Wellspring releases. Personally I found the movie disappointing. You should probably rent it first before deciding whether you want a copy."
Different View on Zombies
Woodlandtrails | 12/21/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This film has English sub-titles and a definite twist. The zombies are not mean, nasty people eating traditional zombies. Since this is France, there is no blaming God or anything about our sin bringing this onto us which if the U.S. had done this film, it would have. It was more of a resurrection (as in like Christ) of the people who died within 10 years who rise from the dead rather than a zombie film which is another reason why this is a definite French twist. THAT religious connotation is radioactive.
That said, They Came Back could have been so much more fleshed out. They never really explained WHY it happened. Admittedly I nodded off during some of it as parts CRAWLED slowly forward so I may have missed it. If they did explain, I am NOT subjecting myself to a 2nd viewing to find out.
Was it aliens who possessed the recently dead bodies?
The 3 rating was for the psychological aspects of the living people who have to welcome their dead parent, spouse or child back into their lives. How do you have sex with a being several degrees cooler than you are even if he is your spouse?
I wondered if the woman got pregnant and WHAT THAT child would be like.
There could have been so much more done with this film if they hadn't crawled so SLOWLY through it and wasted time.
Still, it gets kudos for original thinking. The director or other writer/directors can take it to another level with all the new ideas in this film."
So good, until it blows up in your face and leaves you wonde
Robert P. Beveridge | Cleveland, OH | 07/18/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Les Revenants (Robin Campillo, 2004)
Man, I really wanted to like this movie. Robin Campillo, the editor on Qui a tue Bambi?, in his first directorial effort, and you gotta love the premise: suddenly, with no warning, everyone who's died within a certain time rises from the dead and comes back to the town where they lived. Not as zombies, really; they're capable of communicating, they want their old jobs back, etc. They're just a little stiff, and they don't need to sleep. It's a zombie movie without zombies. Its whole purpose seems to be to ask what we'd do, as a society, in such a situation, and for its first hour and change, it provides us with an interesting answer to the question. Unfortunately, then comes the last twenty minutes, where the movie blows up, never regaining its footing.
That first hour, though, is wonderful. Human beings react humanly. There's no sense of sweeping panic, nor any sense that any one character's reactions are supposed to be synecdochic of the whole town; everyone reacts a bit differently, and the town leaders, riddled with their own questions, have a difficult time trying to figure out what to do. (The answer is in no way surprising. Warning: this is not a movie for optimists.) And that first bit is fantastic drama-slash-allegory, the kind of thing we don't see nearly enough.
Then Campillo tries to turn it into... what? A horror film? An action movie? I have no idea. And it goes down the tubes. I've seen some interesting explanations for the final twenty minutes (no one, of course, knows for sure), and I'd be willing to embrace any one of them, or offer up my own, had I managed to make heads or tails of it at all. After I watched it, I went back and watched the final scenes again to see if I'd missed anything, because it didn't seem coherent. Then I did it again. And I came to the conclusion that, no, the simple answer is that the end is an incoherent mess. I cannot adequately express how unfortunate that is, given how great the beginning hour is.
As for the allegory, someone on the IMDB boards called this a zombie movie with Alzheimer's patients instead of zombies. While I think his tongue was planted firmly in his cheek, I do think he's onto something there. The "zombies" seem more like people who are suffering from some form of lingering illness that may or may not be terminal (after all, they're already dead, what can kill them a second time?), and that the living try to manage with drugs, therapy, etc. If you've spent any time in rest homes, either working there or visiting relatives with Alzheimer's, the parallel will be chilling. Been there, done that, and I was probably more affected by the movie for it.
Overall, I liked it. It could have been a truly great film. Unfortunately, it's hamstrung by its own ending. ***