Saturday, January 25, 2014

NOSTALGHIA (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1983, Italy)

The mathematics of faith reduced to an irreducibly complex equation, where two men become of belief lost in the present tense, yearning for a past once but never was. Andrei Tarkovsky's melancholia is a spiritual melanoma, yearning for a Motherland that drove him away, a place of childhood memories that carry the weight of light and air, like the burden of guilt for loving an abusive parent...but unable to forgive.
Through a dream vapor darkly walks Andrei, a Russian poet who weaves a tapestry of elusive symbols, desperately trying to decipher his own subtext. Andrei's ailing heart beats to its own pentameter, a lonely rhythm without reason or rhyme. He has traveled to Italy to research a 18th century Russian composer, a man who gained his creative freedom in exile only to forfeit his life upon his return to Mother Russia. Here, Andrei meets a mad saint who sacrificed his family to save the world and discovers the volatile Molotov of religious conviction. He drifts casually from his dream world into a shared unreality, confounding identity and purpose, attempting to walk upon water while carrying the hallowed flame. His reflection preaches atop a stone mount, cursing the time when mankind went astray and the need to return to simple values of the past, to return to Eden and replace the forbidden fruit, then expunges himself in hell fire.
Tarkovsky's lens captures the human animal in the garden of earthly delights, surrounded by nature. Images of a statuesque Virgin birthing a flock of birds, discarded wine bottles swallowing drops of water, or a gentle fog crawling upon the landscape evoke memories of things past, where events needn't have happened to be true, a state where borders no longer exist with the convolutions of dreamscape. Water is a prime mover, a fluid thematic element, from a warm pool polluted by refuse hidden within its murky depths to a torrent that beats nervously upon the psyches of drowning men. Tarkovsky siphons Beethoven and Verdi through a nightmare machine, a grinding cacophony, a syncopation of sin where fallen angels dwell. And like Andrei, welcome the past imperfect and remain forever trapped by the stone walls of faith.

Final Grade: (A)


Roscoe said...

This is one of the Tarkovskys (THE SACRIFICE being the other) that never quite comes to life for me, despite occasional flickers of brilliance, and I've struggled to put words to why. Ultimately, I find myself missing the actors in films like STALKER, MIRROR, SOLARIS, etc. The performers in those films all manage to bring Tarkovsky's occasionally too-symbolic and intellectualized people to convincing sharp-witted bright-eyed life, in ways that nobody in NOSTALGHIA and SACRIFICE ever really manages. There's this Extreme High-Minded Reverence in the proceedings that ultimately becomes deadening.

Kelly @ home theater austin said...

Excellent review, I feel like watching the movie while reading the article.
It's like a piece of lines that drives us to the heart of the story.

Page Christian said...

Perhaps I'm just too immature for Tarkovsky. The subject as most pseudo documentaries drew me in but I felt out of my depth, and a bit overwhelmed when I wasn't as moved by most who watched Nostalghia. I gave it a go though so there is that. ha ha

Another enjoyable read. And a respectable A grade on this one.
Have a great weekend!

Alex DeLarge said...

Thanks peeps for stopping by a sharing your thoughts on NOSTALGHIA. I think it's the most divisive of Tarkovsky's films, at least among my friends. Some think it's just plane boring, some "don't get it" and others are touched. And they're all right!

Thanks Kelly for the kind words. Hope I've inspired you to give the film a try!

Page, there is no wrong way to feel when watching any movie but especially deeply personal films like NOSTALGHIA. That you gave it a go is a testament to your love of films as more that just mere entertainment. There's nothing wrong with being viscerally entertaining but sometimes we search for a deeper connection, film as communication between people, and for a moment realize that we're not alone in how we feel or see the world. It's comforting...and sometimes terrifying.