I'm told the great artists spend their mature years simplifying their technique, as if the brief time they know they have left in the world demands clarity at all costs. Certainly, more often than not, complexity in a work of art can be problematic, both in the execution of the work and, more important I think, in the appreciation of the artist's effort on the part of his audience.
The burden that the greatest Russian filmmaker, Andrei Tarkovsky, bore for his entire life was the heavy rood of thought. The son of a talented actress and revered poet, Tarkovsky grew up in an idealized world of art-for-art's sake. His creative ethos is one of uncompromising integrity and depth of perception. His life would have been an easier one, I am certain, had he not chosen film as his medium.
Film—that great sprawling vulgar strumpet. Exotic playmate of the dilettante. Indulgent panderer to the jejune and oblivious. Film is so accessible, isn't it? All you have to do is watch and listen. Thought, for the most part, is optional. We define film as popular entertainment more often than we consider it art. Occasionally an artist comes along and tempers film's willfulness with thought and substance. This is, however, all too rare and, more to the point, superfluous. There is, after all, Too Much Money To Be Made.
Andrei Tarkovsky was a Communist filmmaker. His proposals were reviewed by committee; his screenplays were vetted by committee, his budgets approved by committee, and—ultimately, I am certain—the number of release prints that were struck was decided by committee. And yet his work comes down to us devoid of propaganda and groupspeak. Unblemished by politics at a time when the Cold War was raging and the Soviet Union could have used an emissary such as he.
Nostalghia is Tarkovsky's sixth, and penultimate, film. Its subject is the conflict closest to the artist's heart—his love of country and his continual battle for creative freedom.
After five painful filmmaking experiences in the Soviet Union (six, if you count The Steamroller and the Violin, his 46 minute student thesis from 1961), Tarkovsky left Russia for the first time, traveling to Italy to compose his most melancholy film.
How could I have imagined as I was making "Nostalghia" that the stifling sense of longing that fills the screen space of that film was to become my lot for the rest of my life; that from now until the end of my days I would bear the painful malady within myself?
The story is simplicity itself: together with the Italian screenwriter Tonino Guerra
, Tarkovsky introduces us to a married Russian poet, Andrei Gorchakov, who is traveling through Tuscany with his exotically beautiful interpreter Eugenia, researching the life of Pavel Sosnovsky, an 18th century Russian musician who was himself sent to Italy by his master. Sosnovsky achieved great success in his adopted country. Upon his return to the Motherland, however, Sosnovsky fell to alcohol and eventually committed suicide
Tarkovsky's technique is one of doubling. Not accidentally is his protagonist (once again!) named Andrei. The life of the Russian musician abroad is echoed and amplified in the lives of the Russian poet/director abroad.
In spite of the beauty and food for the soul that surrounds all three expatriates in Italy, the longing for home, for the familiar, the essential, the particular Russian sense of the word nostalghia haunts each of them. The beautiful Eugenia longs for a love affair, for a child, but thoughts and dreams of his unhappy relationship with his wife, pregnant, at home, consume Andrei. Gradually (Very gradually! This is one of Tarkovsky's slowest films, and one of his most contemplative) the poet becomes profoundly alienated from his companion, his work, his family, his home, and especially himself.
In the course of working out the implications of exile, divided affections, and the mechanism of creativity, on a visit to the mineral pool of Saint Catherine in Bagno Vignoni (famous for returning vitality to those who bathe there), the poet meets an eccentric local named Domenico, marvelously played by Erland Josephson, a sterling member of Ingmar Bergman's stock company and also the hero of Tarkovsky's last film, The Sacrifice. It is through the oblique counsel of Domenico, and after the completion of a seemingly meaningless quest, that Andrei is finally able to understand—and come to terms with—the depths of his solitude and the profound sense of nostalghia, in the sense of a longing for meaning and spiritual enlightenment which will inform, absolutely, the rest of his life.
Unlike most of his other films, Tarkovsky's Nostalghia is imbued with a palpable sexual tension. This is perhaps due in part to the fact that this is his first contemporary film, and the relationship between man and woman is considered, for the first time, as very much a part of the quest for spiritual wholeness that is always present in Tarkovsky's work. Domiziana Giordano as Eugenia is luminous in her portrayal of a modern woman, enslaved by the expectations of society and desperate for the honest reality of love.
Nostalghia is most definitely NOT for the faint-of-heart or the easily-bored. Death, when it comes in this film, does not ride a helicopter or a Harley-Davidson, nor is it just.
For its fierce contemplation of the human condition, its stunning cinematography, transcendent performances, and its elegant production values, Nostalghia was awarded the Grand Prix de Creation and the International Critics Prize at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival
It is so much easier to slip down than it is to rise one iota above your own narrow, opportunist motives. A true spiritual birth is extraordinarily hard to achieve.
Nobody wants, or can bring himself, to look soberly into himself and accept that he is accountable for his own life and his own soul.
The connection between man's behaviour and his destiny has been destroyed; and this tragic breach is the cause of his sense of instability in the modern world. . . . man has arrived at the false and deadly assumption that he has no part to play in shaping his own fate.
I am convinced that any attempt to restore harmony in the world can only rest on the renewal of personal responsibility.
Other Titles: NOSTALGIA
Release Year: 1983
Production Company: Opera Film
Oleg YANKOVSKY - Andrei Gorchakov
Sergio FIORENTINI - Italian dubbed voice of Domeni
Domiziana GIORDANO - Eugenia
Lia TANZI - Italian dubbed voice of Eugeni
Patrizia TERRENO - Gorchakov's Wife
Laura DE MARCHI - Woman with towel
Delia BOCCARDO - Domenico's Wife
Milena VUKOTIC - Town Worker
Alberto CANEPA - Peasant
Raffaele DI MARIO
Renzo ROSSELLINI - Executive Producer
Manolo BOLOGNINI - Executive Producer
Francesco CASATI - Producer
Lorenzo OSTUNI - Production Executive
Filippo CAMPUS - Production Supervisor
Valentino SIGNORETTI - Production Supervisor
Nestore BARATELLA - Administration
Norman MOZZATO - Assistant Director
Larissa TARKOVSKY - Assistant Director
Andrei TARKOVSKY - Scriptwriter
Giuseppe DE BIASI - Camera Operator
Erminia MARANI - Editor
Amedeo SALFA - Editor
Roberto PUGLISI - Assistant Editor
Andrea CRISANTI - Art Director
Mauro PASSI - Set Dresser
Gino PEGURI - Music Consultant
Lina NERLI TAVIANI - Costumes
Annamode 68 - Costumes
Giulio MASTRANTONIO - Make-up
Studio 4 - Titles
Denis PEKAREV - Sound
Remo UGOLINELLI - Sound Recording
Danilo MORONI - Sound Re-recording
Filippo OTTONI - Sound Re-recording
Ivana FIDELE - Sound Re-recording
Massimo ANZELLOTTI - Sound Effects
Luciano ANZELLOTTI - Sound Effects
Cesare NOIA - Dubbing
Running Time: 126 Film Length: 11337 ft or 3457 mtrs
Colour Code: Colour Colour System: Technicolor
Sound System: Sound
Tarkovsky—Cinema as Poetry
, trans. Natasha Ward, London: Faber and Faber, 1989
The films of Andrei Tarkovsky—A Visual Fugue
, Vida T. Johnson and Graham Petrie,Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1994.
Sculpting in Time
, Andrey Tarkovsky, Austin: University of Texas Press, 1998
On Hollywood and filmmaking:
Below the Line
sex drugs and divorce
a little life, interrupted
- Hecho en Mejico
- Sam's Song
- Hemingway and Fortuna
- Hummingbird on the Left
- The Long and Drunken Afternoon
- Safe in the Lap of the Gods
- Quetzal Birds in Love
- Angela in Paradise
- And the machine ran backwards
a secondhand coffin
how to act
Right. Me and Herman Melville
Scylla and Charybdis Approximately
snowflakes and nylon
I could've kissed Orson Welles
the broken dreams of Orson Welles
the last time I saw Orson Welles
The Other Side of the Wind
Below the Line
Final Cut Pro
king of the queens
Kubrick polishes a turd
movies from space
Persistence of Vision
Apocalypse Now Redux
The Jazz Singer
We Were Soldiers