The Return of the Soldier, based on the novel by Rebecca West
The fact that The Return of the Soldier was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival makes it one of the best films of 1982, considering that this cinema celebration is the most important in the world- ahead of the more popular Oscars.
Julie Christie is a phenomenal actress, four times nominated for an Oscar and winner of the Academy Award for her leading role in Darling, also nominated for Golden Globes and winner of one and so many other prestigious prizes.
She has the complex role of Kitty Baldry in this drama, a woman that appears to be arrogant, obnoxious, perhaps insufferable at times, limited, without Emotional Intelligence – which studies prove is more important than IQ.
Aside from these negative traits, the change in the life of this character would make her almost a victim, even if for quite some time, she seems to be unable to comprehend what is happening to her and furthermore, she has a mistaken, false apprehension of her past life.
At one crucial moment, the Returned Soldier, the husband who has lost part of his memory and some other abilities in World War I, asks about their past together and his spouse speaks about the program they had, their habits and they all appear dull and without any significance or charm, only she does not see it.
Alternatively, maybe it is better said – she had not seen it, but with the dramatic changes happening after the war, she might become overwhelmed and finally understand that the Returned Soldier is a different man and what is worse, the image that she had of her life with him was baseless.
Again, this looks like it needs amendment – it is not just this protagonist- this thought provoking motion picture invites a meditation on our condition as human beings, we get used with situations, people – a phenomenon called Hedonic Adaptation – and we end up in a situation where we do not understand our positions and mistake boring occupations for happiness.
In one of the early scenes, Kitty Baldry receives a visit from Margaret Grey – aka Glenda Jackson, a solid artist, although not a favorite of the under signed – a woman with an inferior social status, comparing with the high standing of the richer, “nobler” host.
Margaret Grey says that she has some important information and is reluctantly received by the higher-class woman – who wonders what this humble person can want with her – stating that Captain Baldry has been injured.
Alan Bates, one of the best actors in the world, portrays Chris Baldry and he is in a hospital, even if his wife does not believe this strange woman, who must surely want money for a falsehood that is impossible to believe – the War Office would surely se3nd a message if the husband suffered an injury.
The visitor has proof, in the form of a letter sent to her, on her old, maiden name, that has luckily reached her at the new address, from the captain, who wants to see Margaret at the hospital.
When they go to visit him, the patient is exhilarated to see Margaret Grey, but does not recognize his wife, furthermore, when the latter is angry and upset that he talks to a stranger and has no word for her, the sick man tells the person who claims to be his spouse to go away.
Chris Baldry remembers the woman he loved as a young man and nothing about Kitty Baldry and details from recent years, he is released from the hospital and returns home, but with an amnesia that makes him interested in Margaret and somehow, he is years younger.
The hero talks to his spouse and his cousin, Jenny, with clam and restraint, but is it is obvious that he is a changed man; indeed, he seems to have nothing in common with the husband who had left to fight in World War I.
He keeps calling his love, who is now a married woman, with a very understanding, if puzzled husband, who sees that this Returned Soldier is sick and in his condition, people have to treat him with patience and care.
As a young man – even if the hero is over forty, he acts as if he is twenty, for he has the mind of that age, almost everything that has happened in the meantime has disappeared – Chris Baldry takes Margaret for long walks, jumps into a boat with other young people and is effervescent and exhilarated.
Indeed, when a doctor is brought in to try to cure the captain, Margaret Grey is of the opinion that the Returned Soldier should be left in peace, given the extreme happiness he now enjoys and the ultimate misery that would come is his recent memory is recovered.
Another great actor, Ian Holm, has the role of Doctor Anderson, who seems to be a psychoanalyst trying to work with Captain Baldry, but aware of the impact that his eventual recuperation might have on him and those around.
One of the catastrophes that took place in the recent past is the death of the only child that the Returned Soldier and his wife had, at the age of two, which in a tragic, outré, eerie coincidence is the age at which the only child of Margaret has died, at the same time.
The latter emphasizes that, once the memories from the recent past are reestablished, together with the knowledge that Kitty Baldry is his wife and all the other elements, the horror of the death of the only child would be re lived, whereas she suggests that they all look at the man who is playing like a child, in the garden, with the emotion, joie de vivre, passion, zest, energy, merriment of a young man
The Return of the Soldier is a very good film, if rather ignored by the critics- a grand total of five – six with this note – critics have written about it and connected their review with IMDB.