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Harry Dean Stanton,
The Russian poet Andrei Gorchakov, accompanied by guide and translator Eugenia, is traveling through Italy researching the life of an 18th-century Russian composer. In an ancient spa town, he meets the lunatic Domenico, who years earlier had imprisoned his own family in his house for seven years to save them from the evils of the world. Seeing some deep truth in Domenico's act, Andrei becomes drawn to him. In a series of dreams, the poet's nostalgia for his homeland and his longing for his wife, his ambivalent feelings for Eugenia and Italy, and his sense of kinship with Domenico become intertwined. Written by
Anonymous and Brian McInnis
Like a gallery of someone else's strong memories/obsessions, the luxurious images and painstaking movements attracted me with their clarity and disturbed me with their foreignness through the entire film. The undeniable beauty of his visual compositions pulled me in like any flawless performance. I felt no desire to visit his landmarks because they called to mind my own strong memories of similar grandeur. It did not matter that these were his choices. All that mattered was the complete realization of each spiritual personal epiphany. The dialogues, monologues, and mini-plays, on the other hand, disturbed me by adding layers of interpretation that either had to be accepted and incorporated into a less pleasant solipsistic whole, or separately analyzed and digested for their complexities in search of a grander vision. It was as if a famous artist began talking to you about the single meaning of each work of his as you observed them. Does he intend to deny you the pleasure of finding your own answers, or is he simply adding a new layer to enliven your own search for meaning? Accepting the latter explanation, has kept my mind busily turning for several days now.
Regardless of whether you accept Tarkovsky as philosophically profound or wise, his work is complex and open to multiple interpretations like a well-written haiku. Was Domenico deluded and tragicomic and the poet's torturous journey with the candle a sad joke? Are our memories of the past so intimately woven into our perceptions of ourselves that we cannot avoid irrational acts that imperil our future? Does strangeness or madness have a singular spiritual value all its own like an architectural ruin or a ravaged landscape? Do we take ourselves too seriously or have we over-developed our social, political, and scientific infrastructure to the extent that we are blind to the real world and threaten its existence? Are our poets and mystics spiritual resources or oversensitive fools, and does it matter? Perhaps Tarkovsky would disagree with every one of my questions. I am certain that others will have different questions and answers. However, for those that don't dismiss this film as self-indulgent and ponderous, Tarkovsky offers a rich composition that can support and survive several generations of critics and interpreters.
A more traditional episodic film with a clearly defined story line and a swift movement between scenes would have less to hide behind that a film like "Nostalghia," but there is no law that says a piece of art cannot be obscure. It comes down to a question of faith in the artist and whether it really matters how creative or insightful he was so long as you personally can find meaning in his work.
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