Reflections: Nostalghia by Andrei Tarkovsky

Nostalghia (Image source:

The movie begins with a distant shot of a couple of women standing on a verdant ground near a lake or by the riverside along with a dog and a horse. Andrei Gorchakov (Oleg Yankovskiy) is a poet and wanting to write about the life of a Russian musician, Sosnovsky (fictitious), and travels to Italy where the musician had spent considerable amount of time. Andrei is accompanied by a translator Eugenia (Domiziana Giordano) who helps him out by traveling with him to places of interest. They meet a madman Domenico (Erland Josephson) who was infamous in the region for having kept his family indoors for several years together for the fear of unknown. Domenico has the belief that the world is coming to an end and to save it he needs to cross a pool nearby with a lighted candle in his hand.

Eugenia leaves Andrei when she discovers that he has no interest in sexual relations (even though she is aware that Andrei is married) and vents out her frustrations on him by opening her heart out to him. In a surreal mix of events, Andrei keeps dreaming and in one of them thinks of himself as Domencio. He decides to go back to Russia to meet his wife and children abandoning the research which he embarked upon. The film ends with a masterful sequence of events: Domencio delivers a speech in the city and immolates himself in the end; Andrei crosses tries crossing the pool with a candle and is successful but dies right after.

The film, as is widely written about Tarkovsky and his creation, reflects his own longing for his motherland Russia after his exile. That the musician Sosnovsky chose to go to Russia and be a slave rather than being free in Italy mirrors his own longing for home. The heart rendering performance by Erland Josephson in the momentous no-cuts-climax emphasize the metaphysical undertones of the screenplay combined with Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and his self-immolation. The slow but timeless shot marking the end is of Andrei sitting by a lakeside with Domenico's dog on a lush green land, which is shown as if existing amidst the nondescript Italian church which was visited by Andrei and Eugenia at the start of the research trip. Death of Andrei after crossing the pool signifies the withering away of one's life when fighting the ills.

Only those who can appreciate almost motionless shots and lacking expressions should watch this one. Erland deserves a standing ovation and Tarkovsky a bow.


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