The nostalgia, in the film's title, isn't just the physical longing for something in the past, it's the spiritual longing that so many people strive for. This shouldn't surprise an student of Tarkovsky's work since no director, possibly with the exception of Ingmar Bergman, analyzed spirituality as Tarkovsky did. NOSTALGHIA follows the trekking of a Russian traveling through Italy along with his beautiful interpreter. His purpose for being there does not come to the viewer easily. Most of the scenes in the movie are filled with a lot of silence, and even the action that does take place, is minimal. Eventually, we come to understand that he is there to find some cultural reinforcement for his Russian background. As the film progresses, we seem to take on the role of the main character in the story, as an observer to events. Throughout his travels he becomes a witness to religious processions, theological discussions, and the rituals of a God-fearing lunatic. The lunatic, played masterfully by Erland Josephson, is looked down upon by a lot of local citizens. Apparently, in the past, he locked his family in his house for a long time, anticipating the end of the World. The movie documents his effect on the Russian traveler, and the traveler's longing to recapture his spirituality. A lot has been said of the ten-minute unbroken sequence where the lead protagonist attempts to carry a lighted candle from one end of a pool to the other. Some see it as utterly boring. Personally, I was fascinated. In it, we see how the protagonist finally attempts to do something in order to recapture his spirituality. For the entire length of the movie he has been an observer, now he is an active participant. To be fair, his action does take the form of a ritual, not the building of a church, or water immersion, but then again, so much of spirituality is ritual. Tarkovsky correctly identifies how it's the continuity that helps us get through life, knowing that some things will never change our strong religious convictions. That's when the protagonist finally comes to realize that action must take place. It's no coincidence that this scene takes place after a demonstration given by the Erland Josephson character. It's an amazing scene. In it he gives an intelligent speech about the desolation of art. It also imparts an important question to the viewer about those who truly make a difference in the world: the observers, or the "insane", who try to take positive action on the behalf of others. No praise of any Tarkovsky film is complete without talking about the technical angle of his work. In NOSTALGHIA Tarkovsky is proven again to be a master of beauty, carving out beautiful images into the Italian landscape. Even the indoor scenes are beautiful. NOSTALGIA is further evidence of Tarkovsky's desire to elevate film as an art. He paints well...
A Russian poet and his interpreter travel to Italy to research the life of an 18th-century composer.
March 21, 2020