Nostalgia ★★★★★

Feels like we live our lives in terms of goals and goalposts, of reaching that One Big Moment and dedicating our concerted efforts towards such accomplishments. Academic achievements, career promotions, artistic works, there's always that something which preoccupies our waking mind and it feels like we submit to guilt and regret if we're not constantly on that grind. Or at least, that's how I feel, that existence is only truly justified if we have something to show for it: that fancy piece of paper stating we graduated from some place somewhere, that off-white embossed business card with our shiny new title in the center, our art hung up in some random gallery just so we can officially say "we made it". Even monetary displays are accepted as symbolic of our accomplishments, as fucked as that is, whole subcultures born out of commodity fetish in order to materialize and rationalize our daily labors. No coincidence that this constant need to meet capitalist pressures while social media surrounds us with an overabundance of Better, Happier, Sexier images of (but not actual) people is inextricably tied to rising rates of mental distress.

Nostalghia finds Andrei Gorchakov in this middle of this milieu, a Russian writer who journeyed to Italy to research artists and find inspiration for his writing. There's an unspoken tension in his every action, an unseen pall that hangs over him like a dark cloud, and soon he can't even bring himself to look at the art that he traveled so far to witness. Instead, he spends much of his time in his dark, empty room, sitting and sleeping and weeping his days away. It should feel strange, having come so far to make progress on his work and being unable to push past his depression, his alienation, his crushing sense of discontentment, but I think we can all relate to Andrei here; a moment of realization that we will never find ourselves at ease when we attain the goals we force onto ourselves, the goalposts always moving further and further away and any satisfaction cut short as we recognize that there will always be another One Big Moment so long as we are alive and feel compelled to justify our lives.

So it's monumental when Andrei witnesses another orate to a crowd on the importance of returning to a simpler way of life, before setting himself aflame and burning up into the air as if he never existed. Self-deletion as liberation from capitalistic displacement, immolation as a final act of resistance. Our writer stands still and takes it all in; inspiration sometimes comes from the most unlikely of places.

The film ends with a nine-minute scene of Andrei holding a candle, attempting to cross an empty pool before it's extinguished. He was told by the man who set himself on fire that when this is finally achieved, the world will be saved. How absurd, we and Andrei might think, that such a minuscule act can have such astronomic effect. And yet, after this is finally done is our writer's life purpose achieved – not in crafting great art, nor in writing his book, but in changing the world in one small moment. I think that's something we all too easily forget.

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