Nostalgia

Nostalgia ★★★★

Nostalghia is so beautifully drab and enigmatic. Everything about it is washed out and devoid of vibrancy, mirroring the malaise and ennui that plagues the protagonist in his journey through Italy. Not even vegetation is photographed with much life, instead offering specks of muted colour that still cannot overcome the grayness of Andrei’s existence. The feeling of homesickness is not one I’ve experienced often, since I’ve not left my home for extended periods, but I can relate to this kind of misery when I have left it. Nothing seems to lift your emotions. You don’t want to do anything. The people around you fill you with dread. The sky never seems sunny enough. Memories flood back, and you wish to relive them, because they offer more than what your current situation can give. Tarkovsky understands all this and makes a film that is about nothing else. It’s no wonder people don’t know what to do with it. It’s essentially two hours of joyless introspection, capped by ten minutes of a man trying to walk a candle across a drained mineral pool.

And yet, like all Tarkovsky, it’s a fascinating exercise. An endurance test and a probing look into how we conceive mortality and the lives we live. It asks us to question our desires, our goals, and the things we willingly and unwillingly give up in the pursuit of dreams and higher callings. It also posits that understanding how others communicate and reveal themselves in unique conditions is a way in which we can fend off the feeling of inadequacy we get when nothing else seems to compare with past joys. All of this is a starting point, and no doubt there is a lot more that could be unearthed. Tarkovsky is so exacting that you always miss half of the film’s importance on the first viewing. Nostalghia is not the easiest film to want to go back to, though, so I can see why it’s not as highly regarded as his other works. It takes a bit of will to return to this film’s specific brand of dreariness.