By Dirk Sonniksen | January 20, 2014
Director: Andrei Tarkovsky
Writer(s): Andrei Tarkovsky (screenplay), Tonino Guerra (screenplay)
Starring: Oleg Yankovsky, Domiziana Giordano, Erland Josephson, Patrizia Terreno
Russian writer Andrei Gorchakov (Oleg Yankovsky) travels to Italy to study the life of Russian composer Pavel Sosnovsky a man that would ultimately take his own life upon returning to his native Russia. Andrei brings along an interpreter, Eugenia (Domiziana Giordano), and together they travel to a convent to gaze upon its ancient art and other ruins. There should be joy of some sort in such an adventure, but there is only isolation, both physical and mental. Once in Italy, Andrei begins to unravel and to make sense of his journey becomes an exercise in futility.
Let me begin by stating I am not going to attempt to understand completely what Nostalghia means or what it meant to Andrei Tarkovsky. In fact, this is the only Tarkovsky film I’ve seen and for me it was quite heavy and very emotional. It’s one of those films that is discussed in film courses and dark coffee houses and as I’ve never taken a film course and drink my coffee at home, I’ll simply give you my rather simple interpretation of Nostalghia.
Andrei travels to Italy only to learn that he has no idea why he’s there. It’s as if all he sees has very little meaning, or if by chance meaning does exist, it creates only a longing for home and what Andrei is experiencing in the present only intensifies his yearning for the familiar, and as a result, alters the familiar. It’s like visiting a place you were fond of as a child after years of absence and then realizing that as you’ve grown older, everything has changed. Those sacred memories that you held close have been shattered. This enormous place you knew as a child is now small and insignificant. You realize at that moment it will never again be possible to retrieve those memories and share them in their original state. Although the memories remain, they have been permanently altered and no longer hold the nostalgia that once gave you happiness.
In a sense, the above-mentioned situation applies to Andrei. His travels to Italy have created experiences and thoughts that have rendered the journey useless as the intertwining of memories of the present and the past have created mental chaos. There is so much internal back and forth that Andrei can no longer make a connection between his current locale or his life at home. The only spark that seems to appear for Andrei revolves around his encounter with Domenico (Erland Josephson), a hermit of sorts that has experienced physically and emotionally the same torment now afflicting Andrei. Even the idea of sex with Eugenia, who fancies him, is out of the question. The fire that makes the act possible for Andrei has been extinguished.
Nostalghia is a very moving film, filled with mesmerizing imagery and moments that bring about great contemplation. It’s not a film you’ll find as a Red Box selection and frankly Nostalghia is a film you’ll want to watch alone. Tarkovsky created a masterful tapestry with Nostalghia, a film that puts forth many questions, but answers none.