Foreign Film February: Nostalghia (1983)


Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky directed seven films in his all-too-short career. I’ve now seen all seven and everyone is brilliant, several are masterpieces (I still haven’t seen the Steamroller and the Violin the short film he made in school). His films are known for their beauty, spirituality, and long takes. Nostalghia has all that in spades. It also has a pretty confusing plot, but don’t let that bother you, for this is, as Martin Scorsese will tell you, cinema.

The story is about a Russian man who visits Italy in order to research an 18th Century Russian composer who also visited Italy and committed suicide upon his return to his homeland. That much I understood. The rest of it was pretty much lost on me. Reading the synopsis on Wikipedia just now I honestly had no idea that what they say happens in the plot actually occurred. Not that this mattered in any way, it certainly didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the film.

The film uses dream sequences and memories to create a fantastic tableau of images. Tarkovsky is famous for holding an image on the screen for a long time allowing us to truly digest everything we’re seeing on the screen. Here he uses subtle changes in lighting to shift our focus. There is one scene set in a bedroom. We see a man lying on a bed in the middle of the room, it is raining outside, and there is a bathroom in the corner. The camera holds the shot. Our focus shifts from the window to the bed. The man seems to disappear. Rain now seems to be puddling on the floor. A dog appears at the bathroom door. For several minutes we stare at this bedroom. Nothing happens, and yet we are mesmerized. Or at least I am.

Tarkovsky does this over and over. He is like a great painter and film is his canvas.

He uses rain, puddles, and water to great effect. Water drips from ceilings. Characters wander in cave-like structures filled with water. Reflections abound. The setting here often looks a great deal like The Zone in my favorite of Tarkovsky’s films, Stalker. It is very earthy. Organic.

I’ll need another viewing or two (or three) to get a real grasp on the story and what Tarvkosky is trying to say, but with this initial viewing, I was just mesmerized by the pictures he painted.

2 thoughts on “Foreign Film February: Nostalghia (1983)

    • I think it was an original screenplay but I may be mistaken. But I think similar plots have been used in books and in movies. I’d be interested to see if you find out which book you are thinking of.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s