Nostalgia

Nostalgia ★★★★

''Society must become united again instead of so disjointed. Just look at nature and you'll see that life is simple. We must go back to where we were to the point where you took the wrong turn. We must go back to the main foundations of life without dirtying the water. What kind of world is this if a madman tells you must be ashamed of yourselves? Music now!''

Living and working in Italy by this point in his career, stripped of his normal funding and nostalgic for his motherland, Tarkovsky is imbued in his protagonist's journey. Straight up, I will admit to finding Nostalghia to be Tarkovsky's most oblique and confounding experience yet.

Nostalghia is a film stripped down to its core, relying on its imagery and themes, which are both powerful and profound despite being not easily identified on first viewing. The title of the film is worn on its sleeve and the longing for Russia via the main character Gortchakov seems to permeate every frame he drifts through. The film has much to say about the existence of art, music and poetry and how it is interpreted, which seems to place an existential burden on Gortchakov. As his psyche becomes intertwined with a madman named Domenico who tries to teach him the rule of 1+1=1, he drifts into a surreal journey of fragmented memories and dreams that offers up some of the films most haunting sepia imagery. Water once again has a significant symbolic resonance as it has in all of Tarkovsky's films up to this point, which only makes me wonder whether Russia is in fact the dampest place on Earth, and therefore permeates all of his work.

This is a haunting work that both mesmerised and lulled me in equal measure with its glacial pace. There is so much to swoon for in its startling imagery, use of sound and music and hypnotic tracking shots, and these things alone should be enough to draw the intrepid back in to tackle the narrative, symbols and themes further. A challenging work from a master film-maker should not be taken lightly, and with the help of some extra-textual assistance I am eager to journey back to Tarkovsky's nostalgic musings once again.

From the mouth of the man himself: “I was not interested in the development of the plot, in the chain of events – with each film I feel less and less need for them. I have always been interested in a person’s inner world, and for me it was far more natural to make a journey into the psychology that informed the hero’s attitude to life, into the literary and cultural traditions that are the foundation of his spiritual world. I am well aware that from a commercial point of view it would be far more advantageous to move from place to place, to introduce shots from one ingenious angle after another, to use exotic landscapes and impressive interiors. But for what I am essentially trying to do, outward effect simply distance and blur the goal which I am pursuing. I am interested in man, for he contains a universe within himself; and in order to find expression for the idea, for the meaning of human life, there is no need to spread behind it, as it were, a canvas crowded with happenings” (P204)

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