Brian Formo’s review published on Letterboxd:
This was the first time that I've seen Andrei Tarkovsky in a theater. And that's an important distinction. Watching Tarkovsky at home allows my mind to wander, to look at my phone, etc. Watching him in a theater is a perplexing confrontation of attention and what you pay attention to. But most importantly it affords the glorious journey home to unpack and reflect as opposed to just remain in your viewing space and continue on with your day. While watching Nostalgia uninterrupted I had to resign myself to just letting the beautifully composed images wash over me and admit that while I'm not following what is happening I know that the imagery will click afterward in some personal way. As such, I'll divide this "review" into two sections, my viewing thoughts and my post-viewing thoughts.
The dream/flashback/combination of flashbacks informing dreams and vice versa is some of the most gobsmacking cinema I've ever seen and heard. Such stark photographic compositions, with angel wings hidden in a background, dense fog, bath fog, it all helps in creating a dreamlike state that will eventually lead to an other-wordly snow globe of encasement.
Such an amazing use of sound, from the bray of mules in the distance, and sounds of machinery that is never seen. I so very much love that there's a chilly soundscape but never a score until you are aware that through cinematic structuring, the end is coming in under 90 seconds after a specific shot, that that's the ending and here is your standard cinematic embrace.
Now for my dumb viewing thoughts while being perplexed by not having a rope narrative to pull me through: these sepia-toned and aqua-toned moments of reflection sure must have influenced all the cool VHS moments in The Ring! And what the fuck is happening and are these two men actually the same people? And I hear a snore in the audience, where are they, is their mouth agape aimed at the ceiling? What are the people next to me, on a date, thinking? Is he nervous? Is she playing it cool? WHO AM I?
I left the screening with a friend and was glad that we both wanted to reflect without saying what we thought it was and just talked about the imagery and sound.
The poet's attraction to the man in town who locked up his family for seven years and then seemed to intertwine personhood with him, combined with Eugenia's discussion with the priest about the Madonna and motherhood and her subsequent confessional with the poet and other bad men who cannot connect connects to me in this way: men and women each have a gendered transition that includes each other but then sends each spiraling into a different destiny. And that is that a woman can transition into motherhood, a completely different and innate plane of new existence. And men can go mad by lacking that plane of existence and looking to society to embrace them but society is not an inclusive place. The town crazy used that spiral to entrap his family and the poet uses that to isolate himself. And Eugenia, I do not know what becomes of her, but something tells me that she's happy or at the very least the poet envisions her as becoming happy free of him and that is viewed as an act of kindness to let her go free to find the right man who can aid in transitioning her as she desires. Though the cycle for that man might be similar to his, and the town crazy.
Although the flashbacks/dreams/fugue combinations are beautiful in their stillness (and also callous in their stillness when faced with another's pain), my favorite scene was the little girl who visits the poet in a watery lair while he's having a breakdown. It is my favorite because the poet asks her (loose remembrance) "are you content?" she first asks, "with what?" and he becomes more direct "with life?" and she responds, as if the question is silly, "yes, I am." And I wonder, what would a child think would be discontent if she were content with life? And it would have to be the moment. A child can view life as easy or that the future will hold greater joy and the contentment is just in existing but existing in a moment will not always fulfill content. Children can be bored but they can train themselves to find a prompt to enjoy that moment or be stuck in boredom. And adult life should be similar. We should be able focus on the moment and make it better and what keeps us from allowing that to happen isn't momentary boredom but our collision of the past and how that informs our view of the future; our past informs our view of self and how we envision our future and that can get ugly. But a child is just happy to be alive, even if they can't describe their current state as happy. The transition to adulthood looses that natural contentment.
That is how I feel from watching Nostalgia. That and The Ring was surely influenced by this lol.
I also recommend reading Eli Hayes' great summary of the film. There is no dumb mention of a Gore Verbinski remake.