This is the first in a series of five twenty-minute films based on Greek heroic mythology that were written by Aleksei Simukov and directed by Alexandra Snezhko-Blotskaya between 1969 and 1974, at the end of her long animation career in the former Soviet Union (see also “The Argonauts,” “Labyrinth: The Deeds of Theseus,” “Perseus” and “Prometheus”). They were produced by Russian state animation studio Soyuzmultfilm on behalf of the Ministry of Education and are considered the most important movies about Greek myth ever made in the USSR.
“The Return from Olympus” draws upon the common ancient motif of Hercules as a benefactor of mankind, but the story it depicts is wholly modern. It takes a philosophical approach to the hero which emphasizes his humanism while skillfully weaving in contemporary Russian political concerns: Hercules wishes to return to earth after becoming a god, and after reviewing his labors and engaging in a debate about free will and divine authority (with Zeus’ eagle), he realizes that he needs to stay on earth and help mankind overcome challenges such as Nazism, fascism and militarism, which take the form of the famed monsters from his labors.
watch 6 min: 0-3.10; 15.25 to end