As human beings we’ve never been very good at living in the present; nostalgia is never too far away. Whether that’s for the Classics or the Spice Girls; Plato or Pulp. However, dwelling-on, or pining for, the past is never really any good for you. Despite leaving his native Russia in order to avoid the increasingly irksome state interference and censorship, Andrei Tarkovsky’s first film outside of his homeland, Nostalgia, shows he wasn’t yet ready to move on.
A Russian writer (Oleg Yankovsky) travels to Italy in order to research the life of a 18th century composer. He is accompanied by his interpreter Eugenia (Domiziana Giordano), and whilst she’s attracted to him, Andrei is preoccupied and homesick, rebutting her advances. He finds companionship in his alienation with Domenico (Erland Josephson), who is famous in the village for his eccentricity and his obsession with trying to cross a mineral pool with a lit candle.
Russians have a rather unique connection to the ‘motherland’, and Nostalgia is very much a film from a director who is feeling a sense of loss himself. At times visually astounding, Nostalgia is probably Tarkovsky’s most meditative and contemplative outing. It’s the work of a maestro conflicted by his choices. He channels this through Andrei’s spiritual weariness. Nostalgia is beautiful and carefully considered cinema. The scenes around the mineral pool are breathtaking.
Nostalgia is released on Blu-ray and DVD by Curzon Artificial Eye on Monday.