Andrei Tarkovsky’s Nostalgia (1983) – The Great Battle Between Home and Journey

I swear, whoever does the lighting for Tarkovsky’s movies has the brain of a god. 

Andrei Tarkovsky’s Nostalgia reminds me of a piece that I’d just recently watched, in which I’d also happened to adore, called The Passenger. Made by Italian filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni, the film followed a writer on a supposed “business trip,” in which he was essentially running away from his home life to become someone new as if he was seeking to press a metaphysical replay button. Nostalgia sees acclaimed poet Gorchakov running away from home too, but it seems as if this man is looking more so for clarity in himself as a lone artist rather than a means that would completely change his persona. 

Whether it be the many shots that are so elaborate as if they were ripped straight out of famous renaissance paintings, incorporation of liquified reflections to add to the dreaminess of a sequence, the long takes that are augmented to become cinema’s most emotional, the sounds of nature that forewarn us before tragedy strikes, or literally putting places from the past directly into places of the present to amplify the electricity of a set-piece, I have yet to visit a Tarkovsky movie that isn’t a technical masterpiece in ways people couldn’t believe conceivable until they saw it with their own eyes. In all sincerity, the atmosphere and look of movies do not get better than in Tarkovsky’s, and Nostalgia is positively no exception. 

To not sidetrack from the story Tarkovsky is eloquently telling here, on Gorchakov’s quest for information of a beloved (yet dead) composer he’s researching, he runs into an old man seen by the people of Rome as a nutcase for barricading his family in their house long ago due to his wild imagination. In manners, Gorchakov sees himself in this old man: lonely, deprived, afraid to return home, yet more importantly, greedy, self-absorbed, obsessed with the theoretical judgments that got his family detached from him in the first place. It gets you thinking, just how willing are we to pursue our artistic beliefs in the midst of our families who can become very much at risk of every move we decide to make? 

Gorchakov is torn between his family and using new foreign grounds for his work; his nostalgia seems to be the only factor that keeps him from sinking completely down into his insoluble work despite it feeling like something he can never hope to experience again. Gorchakov’s colleague and translator Eugenia seems most uninterested in these uncharted and devout locations, however, acting out as the abstract opposer in this quarrel. 

As with most creative minds, our obsession for art translates as a hope for answers, howbeit, it can sometimes detach us from the physical relationships we have right in front of us, and maybe even at a permanent consequence—this is why barricading one another (in personal or even political terms) can be negative. We’ll drive ourselves to instability (similar to what happened to the famous composer Gorchakov is researching) until we’ve realized our pursuit for meaning in the self was a melancholic waste of time all along. Why we haven’t cremated our isolation of distracting ourselves with theories long ago remains to be the greatest enigma of human curiosity. 

Another masterpiece from Tarkovsky. Shocker? 

Verdict: A+

A Philosophical Detour (Ranked List)

“Nostalgia” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel.

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