Nostalghia (1983)

Cinematic poetry | 125 minutes

Movie Info


It’s very special to watch any of Andrei Tarkovsky’s movies and the more you tend to know about this Russian film maker you wonder his deep powers to his movies. The Russian filmmaker never made a film that he didn’t appear to have some personal connection to, from his student film ‘The Steamroller and the Violin’ to his 1986 farewell ‘The Sacrifice.’ All that mean is the only exception that could have been his 1972 adaptation of Stanislaw Lem’s “Solaris,” but even then, you can’t help and think that the reasons he chose the story are likely due to an emotional connection to the idea & the philosophies surrounded by.

This is made under Soviet/Italian joint venture- Tarkovsky’s sixth feature film, as he co-wrote the screenplay with Tonino Guerra. The film stars Oleg Yankovsky, Domiziana Giordano and Erland Josephson. The film won the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury, the prize for best director and the FIPRESCI Prize at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival.  Tarkovsky also shared a special prize called Grand Prix du cinema de creation with Robert Bresson. Then the Soviet authorities prevented the film from winning the Palme d’Or… and this mattered hard for Tarkovsky, never to work in the Soviet Union again

Nostalghia as you can see is the full bloom of the filmmaker’s artistic silhouette. A very sincere philosophical catalyst which defines the situation, the personage and the character drifts  on those long takes and tracking shots, blend into the black-and-white photography and color; the reverence towards art; the reminiscing of the past, and the search for peace that all of his characters strive for. All the way Tarkovsky filmed it in Italy for the first time in exile from Russia and so appreciatively, all of the master’s artistry followed him out of Russia, where he had dealt with much in the way of censorship and political unrest that led to cutting of some of his greatest films (there have been at least three versions of his masterpiece “Andrei Rublev” screened over the years), and after the wretched experience in Russia, making his sterile but poetic 1979 film ‘Stalker’,  there was really nothing left for him as a filmmaker in Soviet Union.

The plot of the story is about the Russian writer Andrei Gorchakov (Oleg Yankovsky) travels to Italy to research the life of 18th-century Russian composer Pavel Sosnovsky, who lived there and committed suicide after his return to Russia. He and his comely interpreter Eugenia travel to a convent in the Tuscan countryside, to look at frescoes by Piero della Francesca. Andrei decides at the last minute not to enter the convent. Andrei gets back to the hotel, as he feels displaced and longs to go back to Russia, but unknown circumstances seem to get in the way. Eugenia is smitten with Andrei and is offended that he will not sleep with her, claiming that she has a better boyfriend waiting for her.

Andrei meets and befriends a strange man named Domenico, who is famous in the village for trying to cross through the waters of a mineral pool with a lit candle. He claims that when finally achieving it, he will save the world. They both share a feeling of alienation from their surroundings. Andrei later learns that Domenico used to live in a lunatic asylum until the post-fascistic state closed them and now lives in the street. He also learns that Domenico had a family and was obsessed in keeping them inside his house in order to save them from the end of the world, until they were freed by the local police. Before leaving, Domenico gives Andrei his candle and asks him if he will cross the waters for him with the flame.

During a dream-like sequence, Andrei sees himself as Domenico and has visions of his wife, Eugenia and the Madonna as being all one and the same. Andrei seems to cut his research short and plans to leave for Russia, until he gets a call from Eugenia, who wishes to say goodbye and tell him that she met Domenico in Rome by chance and that he asked if Andrei has walked across the pool himself as he promised. Andrei says he has, although that is not true. Eugenia is with her boyfriend, but he seems uninterested in her and appears to be involved in dubious business affairs. Later, Domenico delivers a speech in the city about the need of mankind of being true brothers and sisters and to return to a simpler way of life. Finally, he plays the fourth movement of Beethoven’s Ninth and immolates himself. Meanwhile, Andrei returns to the mineral pool to fulfill his promise, only to find that the pool has been drained. He enters the empty pool and repeatedly attempts to walk from one end to the other without letting the candle extinguish. As he finally achieves his goal, he dies.

It’s important that we must need to get introduced to Tarkovsky’s films before we seeing any of them, regardless at their best, they are capable of trying your patience. Tarkovsky’s work is built on subtle visual beauty enhanced by sound effects and music for a truly poetic cinematic experience. Dialogue is only of interest to the filmmaker if it has a philosophical purpose, or is able to allow us to understand his characters better. This is part of the appeal for me in watching his films: his approach to the medium is simple, but one would never call him a simple filmmaker. There’s a great deal of warmth, intellectual and emotional intrigue, largely the reminiscence unscramble and the unsurpassed discrete narration of celluloid glory.

The proof is imminent in this movie’s last passages, where the poet (inspired by Domenico’s example) lights a candle, goes into St. Catharine’s pool, and tries to walk across the bottom of the pool, all the while with the candle still lit. If it goes out, he goes back to the beginning, lights the candle again, and begins to walk again. The purpose of this act is never spelled out in the film; Tarkovsky leaves it to his audience to figure that out. Like all of Tarkovsky’s characters- the poet is driven by a spiritual and emotional journey that gets to the heart of what the idea of ‘faith’, also the astonishing final shot shows the poet in the foreground of a fragile coexistence between the two worlds, as the Russian farmhouse becomes encapsulated within the arching walls of a Roman cathedral. It is both an idealized and an ominous closure, as the muted colors of the Russian landscape now suffuse the Italian streets, tainting them with the pallid hues of unrequited longing-a tenuous reunification of the spiritual schism within Gorchakov’s soul.

In all the Tarkovsky’s spiritual serenity, it’s eventually the leitmotif of all his films. Tarkovsky does not document, nor does he reflect in the manner of everyone’s imagination. In the entire history of cinema there has never been a director, who has made such a dramatic stand for the human spirit as did Andrei Tarkovsky. Today, when cinema seems to have drowned in a sea of glamorized triviality, when human relationships on screen have been reduced to sexual intrigue or sloppy sentimentality, and baseness rules the day – this man appears as a lone warrior standing in the midst of this cinematic catastrophe, holding up the banner for human spirituality and if you think the life of us can flow in simple puritan, and so can be Tarkovsky….

Film Crew

  • Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky
  • Written by Tonino Guerra & Andrei Tarkovsky
  • Cast: Oleg Yankovsky; Erland Josephson and Domiziana Giordano
  • Cinematography by Giuseppe Lanci
  • Release date: May 1983
  • Run time of 125 minutes
  • Country: Soviet Union and Italy
  • Language: Russian / Italian


Trailers & Videos


Nostalghia (Subtitled) - Trailer

Cinematic poetry

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