ROTTERDAM 2000 REVIEW: Dostoevsky Strikes Back: "The Return of the Idiot"
by Mark Peranson
(indieWIRE/2.9.2000) — Sasa Gedeon‘s odd festival favorite “The Return of the Idiot” (Navrat
idiota) is inspired by Dostoevsky’s title character and is not a proper
literary adaptation. This is a good thing. For all intents and purposes,
Gedeon condenses the socio-personal themes of “The Idiot” into a scant
100 minutes while doing away with a good 98 percent of the novel’s plot
and situating the action among middle-class, post-revolutionary Czechs.
In doing so, he contributes a distinctive Eastern European filmic mood,
an incredibly annoying tinkerbox score, and creates a final result that
is all his own. As understated as comedy can get, it sneaks up so slowly
I didn’t even notice; Gedeon builds a sonata one note at a time.
The action begins with an extended dialogueless sequence aboard a train.
The slow Franticek (Pavel Liska, in a muted and subtle performance that
earned him a European Film Award nomination) is released from an asylum
where he was subjected to excessive episodes of shock treatment, leaving
him with a tendency to bleed profusely from the nose at the most
inopportune moments. As he says, his doctor has informed him that time
has come for him to stop avoiding life…and women.
On the train platform, he espies Olga, a beautiful blonde kissing a
dark-haired fellow goodbye, and then proceeds to make himself obtrusive,
as unobtrusively as possible. This is the deliberate, all-encompassing
pattern (on Gedeon’s part) that Franticek falls into with the rest of
the characters. Seems like the Idiot has arrived just in time for Olga