PAUSE IT: What do you see? Bob Rueland (David Duchovny) and Grace Briggs (Minnie Driver) embrace in the middle of a crowded piazza in director Bonnie Hunt’s Return To Me (2000). Posed as if characters inside the frame of a painting, the lovers’ outpouring of affection suggest a feeling of plenitude, if not spiritual significance. What Hunt employes here is a narrative technique known as a tableau vivant (or tableau). A centuries-old style of dramatic presentation, visual artist as varied as painters, sculptors, and photographers have used tableaus to depict moments of great religious, historical, or emotional impact (for more famous examples think of Leutze’s Washington Crossing the Delaware or da Vinci’s The Last Supper). Tableaus differ from ordinary compositions in that they are meant to encapsulate an event, feeling, or idea into a single, freeze-frame gesture. In this story about the redeeming power of love, Hunt symbolically positions Duchovny’s head to rest upon Driver’s heart — a transplanted organ that formerly belonged to Duchovny’s late wife (Joely Richardson). The heart now beating inside Driver, in a powerful moment the music swells as the two women become one.
Return To Me (2000)
Director: Bonnie Hunt
Cinematography by: László Kovács
Cast: David Duchovny, Minnie Driver, Carroll O’Connor, Robert Loggia, Bonnie Hunt, David Alan Grier
Available From Olive Films on DVD and Blu-ray.
March 20, 2017