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Beautiful, Strange, Powerful, Haunting Masterpiece
RobertF8718 April 2004
There are very few people worthy of the accolade of "Genius" but the late Russian film-maker Andrei Tarkovsky was definitely one of them. In his film-making career he is responsible for some of the most beautiful images ever to be put on a cinema screen.

"Nostalghia" deals with a Russian poet who is in Italy to research the life of a Russian composer, who died there. Accompanied only by his female, Italian, interpretor, who is attracted to him, the poet feels strong feelings of home-sickness for Russia and he strongly misses his wife and child who stayed behind.

This was Tarkovsky's first film made outside the Soviet Union (and his first in a language other than Russian), but it is still very obviously a Tarkovsky film, complete with many haunting images of water and fire. in fact, instead of the beautiful, sun-drenched Italy we are used to seeing on film, here the country is grey, wet and shrouded in mist. As usual in Tarkovsky's films there are many changes between colour footage and black-and-white (or sepia). Here, the poet's memories of Russia are presented in monochrome.

As with all Tarkovsky films, "Nostalghia" demands a great deal from the viewer. It is very slow moving and requires a great deal of patience and concentration. Also, be warned that Tarkovsky did not see cinema as "entertainment" but as an art form. I would advise anyone to make the effort and stick with it, though. It is a great work of art.
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Preston-1021 September 2001
The nostalgia, in the film's title, isn't just the physical longing for something in the past, it's the spiritual longing that so many people strive for. This shouldn't surprise an student of Tarkovsky's work since no director, possibly with the exception of Ingmar Bergman, analyzed spirituality as Tarkovsky did.

NOSTALGHIA follows the trekking of a Russian traveling through Italy along with his beautiful interpreter. His purpose for being there does not come to the viewer easily. Most of the scenes in the movie are filled with a lot of silence, and even the action that does take place, is minimal. Eventually, we come to understand that he is there to find some cultural reinforcement for his Russian background. As the film progresses, we seem to take on the role of the main character in the story, as an observer to events. Throughout his travels he becomes a witness to religious processions, theological discussions, and the rituals of a God-fearing lunatic. The lunatic, played masterfully by Erland Josephson, is looked down upon by a lot of local citizens. Apparently, in the past, he locked his family in his house for a long time, anticipating the end of the World. The movie documents his effect on the Russian traveler, and the traveler's longing to recapture his spirituality.

A lot has been said of the ten-minute unbroken sequence where the lead protagonist attempts to carry a lighted candle from one end of a pool to the other. Some see it as utterly boring. Personally, I was fascinated. In it, we see how the protagonist finally attempts to do something in order to recapture his spirituality. For the entire length of the movie he has been an observer, now he is an active participant. To be fair, his action does take the form of a ritual, not the building of a church, or water immersion, but then again, so much of spirituality is ritual. Tarkovsky correctly identifies how it's the continuity that helps us get through life, knowing that some things will never change our strong religious convictions. That's when the protagonist finally comes to realize that action must take place. It's no coincidence that this scene takes place after a demonstration given by the Erland Josephson character. It's an amazing scene. In it he gives an intelligent speech about the desolation of art. It also imparts an important question to the viewer about those who truly make a difference in the world: the observers, or the "insane", who try to take positive action on the behalf of others.

No praise of any Tarkovsky film is complete without talking about the technical angle of his work. In NOSTALGHIA Tarkovsky is proven again to be a master of beauty, carving out beautiful images into the Italian landscape. Even the indoor scenes are beautiful. NOSTALGIA is further evidence of Tarkovsky's desire to elevate film as an art. He paints well...
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Really, as beautiful as a film can be. As beautiful as art gets.
zetes7 September 2001
Words cannot describe Nostalghia, or, indeed, any Tarkovsky film. He is an artist who is completely unique - I can't think of any other auteur like him. I can't even think of any film that I've seen which tries to copy his style. It is inimitable. No one else is as patient. Tarkovsky's pans and zooms can take minutes. The penultimate sequence, where a man has to carry a candle for a certain distance without it going out, should be horribly boring. Any other director would have used a lot of cutting to produce suspense. Yet, with Tarkovsky's brilliant direction, without a single cut for nearly an entire reel, it becomes one of the most suspenseful and, yes, one of the very best scenes ever captured on film.

In fact, the direction's almost too good. This isn't minimalist like some of his previous films such as Solaris and Stalker. It is more like Andrei Rublev: not a second goes by that is not stuffed to the brim, almost flowing over, with brilliant and poetic images. In a way, although in a good way, this distracts the viewer. I was so bowled over by the images of Nostalghia that I had to watch it twice to understand it (it was nearly as difficult the second time around not to be bowled over!). And I totally appreciate that. I was more than happy to explore this film more deeply on a second journey. Thank you Mr. Tarkovsky for making the films that you did. When you sought to fulfill your audiences' lives with your art, you came closer to succeeding than any artist could have. Of course, you couldn't have made life perfect, nor would you have wanted to. For, as you said, if life were perfect, art would be pointless. May my life always be imperfect.
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Beautiful, obscure, and challenging
DFC-22 August 1999
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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Gary-1612 February 2000
Apparently even Tarkovsky described this film as 'tedious', so you can imagine what it's like to be on the receiving end. But for some reason I don't find it so, although there is the occasional longuer. It's one of the great films of cinema, although certainly rather odd. Once again it has an impossibly glamourous Russian wandering about looking moody, engrossed in the big issues. In fact, the female lead falls for him and is exasperated by his absurd interest in a local derelict. She flashes a tit in erotic frustration which is unusual for Tarkovsky, he seems unwilling to really engage in issues of sexuality, preferring them to be chaste in an almost victorian manner. Certainly there was some accusations of a reactionary attitude to women, for at the start of the film a priest tells the guide that she should sacrifice herself for the sake of raising children. She is made to look rather absurd in the film, but in truth, so do the male characters. Perhaps it was due to cultural traditions in Tarkovsky's background rather than deliberate misogyny.

The Italians didn't take to this film as it did not film Italy in a vibrant manner, preferring to evocate the alienation and melancholia of it's Russian lead. Tarkovsky's brilliance as a director is well illustrated in the film where the Russian and the old man talk in a room. The camera seems to turn a full 360 degrees although you don't notice it. The way his characters and objects seem to float in and out of frame is amazing. It's strange, but nature seems to perform for Tarkovsky. Even the animals seem willing to be directed, a dog staring straight into the camera with an almost unearthly and uncanny presence and stillness. The scene where the Russian lies on his hotel bed and his nostalgia conjurs up his dog in a dream like but also tangibly real manner is powerful and haunting.

The problem with this film is that the lead character was not really in exile and could go home anytime, unlike Tarkovsky himself, so why was he in so much pain? Is it mere homesickness as opposed to the real longing for one's homeland rightly belonging to the truly disenfranchised? But perhaps that is not the issue, more that when man finds himself and true wisdom, is it too late in the day for him to use what he has learned? The self sacrifice of the old man is a return to an old theme of Tarkovsky's that perhaps only shame can save mankind.

There are many eccentric aspects to this film, for instance the Russian wandering around up to his waist in water. Also there is a brief and bizarre shot of an angel stomping around outside a house. As it's Tarkovsky you don't burst out laughing. Perhaps he reaches the parts other directors cannot reach.

But there are also some vividly beautiful moments. The doves being released in the church, and the light filtering through a stream of water in a gutted house. Towards the end of his career, Tarkovsky began to question the rigid criteria he used in shooting a film in a way he felt won purity and aschewed the vulgar and trivial, but I think he got it right here. A marvelous film.
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A Near Masterpiece
zclark819 August 2002
There is a strange feeling that comes over me when I watch a Tarkovsky flick, like I'm seeing a puzzle come together to for a full picture, yet it is of something I cannot fully comprehend. I'm sure this has happened to numerous others while they watch a David Lynch film, or even one of the various mind-bogglers released this past year. But Tarkovsky comes to us with a different approach-an approach that I have not seen from any other director. It is an approach that reminds me of reading a poem. You read it once-you don't comprehend it. You read it again-it seems clearer. It may not be until that third reading that it finally clicks. Tarkovsky's images are not there to keep you puzzled, they all have a meaning and a purpose-you just need to find what that meaning is. It may seem like there is much work involved, and sometimes I would rather work for a film than be bowled over by its tepid scripting and mediocre direction. The one thing you would need, above all, would be patience, because it is not the kind of film to watch half-asleep.

The story, at times, is hard to grasp, number one because it is in subtitles. It follows a Russian poet who is on a research mission in Italy with an Italian interpreter. There, he is haunted by his past: memories of his wife and children. One of the most amazing things I picked up was the subtle use of symbolism. You have to pick the film apart if you wanted to fully understand it, and that is something that I enjoy doing. Tarkovsky leaves much to the mind. Such as the dialogue which is subtle as well, and attention must be paid or you'll miss small but important details. It merely is there to move the story along softly scraping the surface. Otherwise, the images must be analyzed.

The camera shots consist of many slow zooms, slow pans, numerous still shots, and semi-slow motion. Many instances, the camera reveals some amazing imagery that is so perfect, so beautiful that not only the most devout romanticist could appreciate. Actually, the entire film is a series of gorgeous cinematography, I couldn't tell you one shot I didn't like.

The final shot of the film is incredible. Constructed both metaphorically and physically, it shows the poet lying sideways on the ground with the top half of his body propped up with an arm. His dog lies next to him with his head on the ground. The camera pulls back steadily slowly. A house is revealed in the background. The shot pulls out further and the house seems smaller than the poet. When the zoom stops is shows everyone surrounded by tall pillars, like the ruins of a temple. Then it begins to snow, just a little; that image holds for an entire minute, before `To the memory of my mother,' appears on the screen. Puzzling, exhausting, yet beautiful and exhilarating. The film, at many points touches religion and life, mostly without answers. Attempting to find those answers is a task well worth the trouble.

****1/2 out of *****
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Tarkovsky, drowning in nostalgia.
Graham Greene29 December 2007
Nostalgia is essentially a dream play that opens with a hazy, monochromatic vision of tranquil reflection, which, not only establishes the core themes behind the film's title, but also, informs the key emotional sequences that are here revisited by the central character throughout. As a result of this, the film is as much about the feelings of loss and longing as it is about the lead character, the homesick Russian poet Andrei Gortchakov, who is exiled in Italy with his guide and translator Eugenia on a research mission into the life of a long-forgotten, 18th century composer. In the hands of any other filmmaker, this plot would give way to a series of grand adventures and curious revelations, but, as we've seen in other films, like the majestic Mirror and Andrei Rublev, Tarkovsky is a filmmaker unconcerned with the external world of the film, who, instead, turns his attentions inward, to chronicle the internal angst and emotions at the heart of these tortured, complicated souls.

As is always the case with Tarkovsky's work, it could be argued that the film has further shades that somehow draw parallels with the filmmaker's own life and works; with the exiled main character here becoming the (cinematic) voice for Tarkovsky's own feelings of loss and nostalgia during the making of this film. Because of this, the cinematic depiction of the small Italian village where the film takes place is one of the gloomiest and most barren creations ever presented, especially in comparison to the kind of lush, summery vistas that we're used to seeing from this particular, geographic region. The locations used are desolate, dilapidated, over-run with moss and ivy, and swept in a constant haze of fine rain and morning fog, which allows the filmmaker to create a number of slow and haunting visual meditations that further the actual plot... but also help to visualise the inner-turmoil felt by Gortchakov at this difficult crossroad in his life. As is always the case with Tarkovsky, the visual design of the film is meticulously created and deeply hypnotic, with the production design creating an emotional labyrinth for the characters, which is then, rigorously explored by the camera.

The use of cinematography is always an important factor is Tarkovsky's work, because it is so vital in creating and (then distinguishing between) these varying layers of reality, fantasy, memory and premonition - with the filmmaker employing a variety of techniques, from cross cutting between sepia-tone and defused colour, and the juxtaposition between regular speed and slow motion. The use of those slow, mesmerising zooms (bringing to mind Kubrick's masterpiece Barry Lyndon) and those complicated tracking shots only add to the lingering tension and escalating melancholy that is perfectly established throughout the film's lethargic first act. The film is deliberately slow, like the majority of this filmmaker's work, with the camera moving at it's own pace in order to linger and meditate on certain images and moments. The editing too is deliberate in it's pace, with a number of scenes unfolding with a minimum of two to three cuts per scene (Tarkovsky always allowing the slow movement of the camera to do much of the work normally covered by the editing), which can, on occasion (particularly the first viewing), become quite tiresome. It does, nonetheless, ultimately tie in with the inner feelings and emotions so synonymous with the title and, is integral to the inner pain felt by our central characters.

Into the mix of things we also get a dose of the mystical, supplied here by the character of Domenico, another tortured soul who's back-story involves keeping his family hostage for a prolonged number of years under fear that the world would end. Domenico, like Gortchakov (and indeed, Tarkovsky), is another one of those haunted souls, inhabiting an earth they don't really understand, whilst questioning their place in the world and the world within the cosmos. Towards the end of the film, Domenico will rant atop a statue about all manner of deep theoretical issues, before Tarkovsky launches into two of the most astounding sequences he ever created. The first is a brutal and literally jaw-dropping act of emotional and physical catharsis (set to the strains of a distorted Beethoven), whilst the other is a long and slow meditation on fate (and probably the most iconic scene in this film), involving an empty pool, a lighted candle, and a weary, heartbroken Gortchakov.

Nostalgia is a deep and thoughtful film, best suited to those viewers who are interested in spending some time with a film that takes a great deal of time to fully reveal it's self. Like the majority of Tarkovsky's films, it is bleak, dreamlike and hypnotic, in the way in which the images just linger on the screen, waiting to be decoded. Some might be frustrated by the slow pace and the reliance on character over narrative, however, if you are an admirer of Tarkovsky's best films, like Andrei Rublev, Mirror and The Sacrifice, then you'll be sure to find something of interest here.
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Architectural Poetry: the Form of Angst
tedg25 November 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers herein.

Writing IMDB comments is a true pleasure -- there is nothing else like it. We have the freedom to assume that you, dear reader, have already seen plenty of descriptions about the story, the beauty, the meditative nature, the ambiguous metaphors, the sculpting of sound, the nature of created memory versus the myth of place. Because IMDB is such a wonderful resource, you may even already know that Eugenia found her child in `The Vampire Chronicles' -- suggested by Pitt because of her role here.

We can assume all that and go off on a single tangent of interest: I am fascinated by novel uses of architecture in film. Not just use of wonderful sets like Zeffirelli's `Hamlet.' Not just buildings as metaphor (`Life as a House') but as a character (`Liebestraum') or as the camera (Welle's `Othello'). Most impressive are when the whole world of vision, the entire conception of the film is architectural, forming the fundamental basis of all the concepts.

`Belly of an Architect' is one approach. It's rather explicit and conflates the life, body and environment of a man into one construction. Clever idea, and in the hands of a master. But I think it still clumsy by Greenaway standards. Here we have another solution to the problem. A whole lot less explicit. Less baggage in working to make sense. More freedom in merging dreams with `reality.' But similarly set in a ruined Italy, here rural. Similarly motivated first by space. But where Greenaway's camera has a painterly-like static stance, Tarkovsky's drifts to explore the space but is similarly static in that it runs continuously from that moving perspective. (This is similar to the approach of memory invested in form in `Last Year at Marienbad.')

And what drifts! Sometimes it seems like tens of minutes. Sometimes it dwells on marvelously poetic details. Sometimes the actors seem to be slowly animated frescoes on damaged walls, with their faded colors and edges as if they were painted by Rublev. Sometimes the space contains another space, either a landscape or a dream space. Sometimes the space contains, sometimes it releases. Sometimes it contains water, sometimes excluding it sometimes both. Sometimes after you feel you have explored a space thoroughly, he languidly reveals a whole new insight. Sometimes it produces spatial impossibilities. Always the notion of space pre-exists the conceptions we receive. Always, the poet's challenge is defined in terms of the elements of built form.

I only know a few others of Tarkovsky's work so far but his breadth already amazes, though they appear superficially similar. I think I would recommend `Rublev' as a first. It makes the work less for a film like this, because you already know how he projects the creative angst of the artist from the character into the folds of your mind. How he invents an architectural eye by long continuous shots anchored to the earth (even when in a balloon), but freely fluid. Always curious, always searching.

This is a life-altering work. I recommend it.

Ted's Evaluation -- 4 of 4: Every visually literate person should experience this.
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Pure art house cinema
kilmorekat1 November 2003
What a strange film, utterly lacking in narrative, self-indulgent, in a sense tedious, but I sat transfixed for two hours. Someone once described cinema as 'painting with light' and there isn't a single shot in this movie you wouldn't have been proud to photograph. It's utterly beautiful. You don't engage with it as you would with a regular movie, you just sit back and let the images wash over you, frankly I could have watched with the sound off and the subtitles off. I'm lying about the sound. Tarkovsky is a genius for dripping water. The switch between film stock is incredible, the sepia is some of the most breath-taking cinematography I have ever seen. This is pure art house cinema in all its gorgeous, pretentious grandeur.
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1+1=1 : or even a thousand raindrops makes ONE big pool, even inside the house
rogierr15 December 2001
Tarkovsky keeps the emphasis on nostalghia and not on sentiment or melancholia. Giuseppe Lanci's (Kaos '84, Caro Diario '94) beautiful colorful cinematography alternated with b/w footage, is reminiscent of Traffic (Soderbergh, 2000), although the content and the pace of that film is very different. The point is, that different filming materials can emphasize different perspectives from different people or different periods in the life of the same person. Luminous or dark. Even a long and slow shot can tell a complete story in this film, as the actors seem to duplicate themselves or substitute others. Miniature landscapes to create surprising visual perspectives are discovered at the ride-in and ride-out of the camera. All those details couldn't be appreciated if the shots were any shorter or the pace any faster. Nevertheless, there are instances where Tarkovsky doesn't seem to know what he wanted exactly and motives stay implicit unfortunately. But that's poetry. See the film again and discover new perspectives. Anyway, there is a strong taste of longing for association of people in the present, in the future and even in the past throughout the film.

Nostalghia is almost entirely (as far the dialogue part of the film goes) in Italian language and the music consists exclusively from legendary composers with some experimental touches here and there. It is on the verge of being arthouse with its sometimes subtle and sometimes experimental light and sound FX. Even the dog seems to have had acting classes. Also I feel that what Godard tried so many times (le Mepris? Week End?) but utterly failed most consistently, Tarkovsky achieves gloriously, although the film shouldn't be much longer.

10 points out of 10 :-)
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wortwart13 March 2003
The great about Tarkovskij films is the poetry in the pictures, the melancholic beauty which is almost too hard to bear. A lot of it is in this one: the water, the garbage, strange, haunting sounds in the background, the dogs, the empty rooms with metal beds and rotten walls, the rain, the warmth of pure, shy love, the static, photography-like pictures (sometimes even filmed pictures), the poems, the philosophical discussions.

The failure of "Nostalghia" shows the fragility by which these ingredients are held together in films like "Solaris" or "Stalker". The thin plot line is torn apart, there is no connection between the plots of exile (what a great plot for Tarkovskij this could have been!) and the plot of saving the world by sacrifying yourself. Domenico the lunatic is just not fascinating. You feel that Andrej cannot understand Eugenia, just as Andrej the director can't. The dialogues are awfully pseudo-intellectual, the fixation on Christian faith just penetrant (compare "Stalker" which is all about faith, but without the churches) - even God himself speaks. The story of carrying a burning candle through a pool and thereby saving the world can hardly be told without exposing it to ridiculousness. Andrej's death is hardly prepared, as young and healthy as he looks this just feels like a deus ex machina. In a word, "Nostalghia" is boring and self-indulgent. Maybe it is not a good idea to name your protagonist like yourself (although there was no problem in "Andrej Rubljow") and letting him read your brother's poems. What could have been great scenes in great films look here like mere self-plagiarisms. And there are scenes where Tarkovskij's genius rises: drinking wodka in the bath arches and talking to a child (one of the few scenes where Andrej comes to life); the final scene with the candle; the scene in Domenico's house. If you have never seen a film by Tarkovskij before, don't watch this - it might keep you from seeing his masterpieces. Three stars for a blundered film in respect of the artist.
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Not much here to offset the pretension
chengiz24 March 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Tarkovsky being pretentious is like Lucas using CGI; but he is undoubtedly a genius - because of his other films. In Andrei Rublev, you can see his sheer hard work: events unfold before your eyes - the balloon, the clown, the orgy, the raid, the awesome bell - all these scenes are masterpieces. Solaris has the mood and sets done just right, which causes an overwhelming uneasiness in the viewer.

Nostalghia has nothing of the sort. I actually didn't mind the last couple of scenes - the immolation and the candle. It was the rest of the movie that was - how shall I put it - duller. Tarkovsky is just being lazy here. Not only has he given up any attempt at hard work, he repeats and re-repeats himself - from his own other movies and then within this movie itself.

The scenes of things under water - done in Andrei Rublev. The family life scenes (including ending) - same as Solaris. Rain inside house - cf snow inside church in Rublev. Philosophical conversations about the same old topics - done better in Rublev. Fog - done in Solaris. Unblinking closeup of painting - you get the idea. Even the immolation reminds of the cow being set on fire in Rublev. There is little that's original here - the baths, the candle scene. That's about it.

If this is your first Tarkovsky you might like it better. But this is a pretentious, unoriginal, tired work with few redeeming qualities.
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Italy vs. Russia
Polaris_DiB26 March 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Italy is a very attractive place for filmmakers, because of its art, architecture, the lighting, and also film history. Many filmmakers go to Italy and immerse themselves in the people and the culture, the light and the atmosphere. Tarkovsky goes to Italy and he makes it as dank, dark, and unpopulated as he makes Russia. And, while in Italy, he has a few things to say about Italians--to explain Russia.

"Then you can't understand Italy, because you're not Italian." A poet goes to Italy to research into the biography of a Russian composer who stayed there for two years, and his life parallels that of the composer. Just so, Tarkovsky's life parallels that of the main character, who is also called Andrei: left in Italy surrounded by so much "beauty it's sickening", he becomes haunted by flashbacks of his family in Russia. Trying unsuccessfully to communicate with his translator (get it?) and striking a metaphysical relationship with a local mystic, Andrei the character struggles with the typical Tarkovskian themes of faith, fire, personal loss, and water, among others.

Tarkovsky is up to some well-rehearsed tricks here. Long takes with an impossibly smooth floating camera dedicate the viewer's eyes to the imagery. The weather is under the same amount of control. A character enters a new space (here it's Italy; in Stalker it's the Zone; in Solyaris it's the space station; in Andrei Rublev it's the society outside the church), and only through intense emotional and philosophical struggle can he prepare himself to return to where he's come from. Thresholds stand tantalizingly around, but don't often get passed (Andrei can walk through a door that leads nowhere with no problem, but can only cross a pool with a candle with immense physical struggle). Spaces are separated by black and white and sepia tones. God is always there but never for you.

There's some new tricks, too. Tarkovsky plays with light a lot in this one, and frames that seem to sink into pure black suddenly illuminate hidden images and icons. A compelling sonic disturbance is created in flashbacks to Russia that sound like a table-saw grinding away at wood; "The Music" the mystic speaks of is warped and fragmented vinyl.

Nostalghia, I feel, is not the Tarkovsky movie you want to see first. First see Stalker, or Solyaris, or Mirror. Nostalghia removes the transition from Russia to Italy and so the feeling of transition and change is a lot more dependent on the symbolic and abstract sensibilities, and previous knowledge of Tarkovsky's imagery will help to interpret it. For fans of Tarkovsky, however, Nostalghia is a sweet and personal return into his dense and foggy mind (or house, as Chris Marker calls it), the world that only he was able to fully explore.

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I admit it is brilliant. I didn't like it.
Scoopy16 February 1999
It is beautifully photographed, and further established Tarkovsky as a genius with natural landscapes and settings. Aside from Orson Welles, Tarkovsky must be the king of atmosphere.

Atmosphere alone does not make a great movie. This movie is unbearably pretentious and slow beyond words. In comparison to Tarkovsky, Ingmar Bergman is an MTV director.

By this stage in his life, Tarkovsky was an acknowledged genius, and apparently nobody on this team ever dared to question his artistic decisions. He simply has no clue of when his point has been made and it's time to move on.

Is he a fine poet? Yes, as great as his father in many ways. I also think he has a marvelous photographer's eye for images. But he really had a complete disdain for communication with the audience, and that aloofness makes this film so hard to watch. Of course, the fact that much of the movie exists in dim remembrances and dreams makes it even less accessible. I don't even know if this film had a script. Some of the actor's dialogue, especially Giordano's, seems unrelated to the scenes they are performing. The actors performed admirably.

I watched it a second time with my fast-forward, and it was much better. He has a way of holding the camera on a still or barely-panning image for many, many seconds - with no sound either, except for his overused running or dripping water cliche. If you fast-forward all of those to the next scene, the movie flows much better.

I consider this movie a disappointment. I always thought Tarkovsky would make a great movie when given Western budgets and technology, but he pretty much just remade his earlier movies on better film stock.

He has a beautiful vision. I wish he had become a photographer instead of a filmmaker.
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A poetic piece of magic realism
Tommy-418 November 1998
Previous critical comments about Nostalgia include 'the nearest to poetry that cinema can ever aspire'. There is nothing more one can add, this comment sums it up totally. I would say that this film is different every time I watch it, it's more than poetry, it's hypnotic to the state of Tarkovsky casting a spell on the viewer.
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sad worship of a misunderstood director
Brian1 December 2005
There's a reason most people don't know about this movie and that's because it's for film students and those who consider themselves in the hierarchy of the film community. Are people too in love with Tarkvosky to recognize this is a bad movie? Bad storytelling? It "invents" nothing. There are virtuous aspects; no doubt. We all know that they're technical. The acting, however, is misdirected. Great actors who have nothing interesting to say and walk around just speaking words. THey mean nothing. Tarkovsky's "sculpting in time" theory has not been closely followed for good reason: it makes for tedious, dull, and repetitive movies. His movies won't last.
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You have to be even more insane than Erland's character to consider this dull drama a masterpiece.
Fedor Petrovic (fedor8)19 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
First of all, please use this link: http:// viewtopic.php?p=142178&highlight=&sid= dd58cd36ffe474e7bd315c810cb708e6. It will lead you to a hilarious forum "discussion" about this very comment! I'll also use this opportunity to say "thanks" to Cold Bishop and the other morons for taking my texts so seriously - and making me laugh very loudly!

Secondly, let me explain the high 7.9 rating on IMDb. Only around 2,000+ people voted, and they're mostly film students who FORCE themselves to like movies like this, and other pretentious boredom-seekers who find thrills in watching grass grow. "Nostalghia" is the IDEAL film to fall asleep to. I speak from experience.

I absolutely loved "Solaris" and "Stalker", two brilliant, intelligent sci-fi dramas. On the other side of the Tarkovsky spectrum, I was utterly confused by "The Mirror" - which had zero story to tell (though occasionally visually very nice), I was mostly bored to tears by "Andrey Rublev" (nearly 4 hours!), but thought "The Sacrifice", his last movie, was okay (in spite of being in Swedish, an unpleasant language).

Tarkovsky's two sci-fi films are based on (good) novels, and this may be the crucial point. It seems that he is pretty much lost when doing his own material. He gets bogged down in his dull poetry and philosophy, not bothering to inter-connect various parts of the two in a cohesive manner, failing to focus on the essentials. Hence all his other (non-sci-fi) movies are not much better than all the other pretentious European crap from various Godards, Bunuels, Bergmans, Triers, and other overrated, lazy "geniuses".

"Nostalghia" is an overly pretentious non-story that is far too self-indulgent even for a European director. If you make movies just for your own "artistic" pleasure then why even bother releasing them? This two-hour snooze-fest could have been EASILY cut down to half that length - and it would still not be fascinating. Watching the main character walk around endlessly without saying or doing anything is just GARBAGE film-making. Lazy, and made/written by someone who overestimated himself a tad.

The positive side to this movie - apart from the fact that it made me fall asleep - are some visually stunning scenes. Especially the long shots of water, which are pleasant, if a little sleep-inducing because they may be TOO pleasant. Tarkovsky seemed to have some kind of an almost-fetish for "aqua", because he filmed it in all its visual and audio glory in nearly ever movie he made.

My advice to those who consider this a masterpiece is to stop lying to yourselves about your own intelligence, hence to quit being in denial about how you TRULY, honestly, perceive certain movies. Writing about a movie such as this being a "stroke of genius" is just one of many ways some people deal with an inferiority complex.

Erland Josephson, as uncharismatic as he has been in all his Bergman movies, is a poor choice for the insane man. Besides, what was the point Tarkovsky was trying to make? That he is sane and the rest of us are the insane ones? What a cliché idea! So trite. And how about that last scene (a 250-minute scene, it seemed) of the Russian character carrying the candle for the insane man? Was this symbolic of something? Trying to save the world? The world needs saving from very pretentious, boring movies.

Erland's character locked up his family for seven years. Hence he is not only insane, but should be put away for life. End of story. What can we possibly learn from Erland? His impassioned, idiotic left-wing "back-to-the-caves" speech was just dumb. It's something a 17 year-old manic-depressive idealist would write.

Besides some nicely photographed scenes, there was a pleasant scene where the blonde actress bares one of her breasts.

Tarkovsky portrays Italy as a gloomy, dark, depressing place. I have no idea why. If Italy looks like this, what should he do with Russia or Finnland??

(Sick and tired of Euro-trash "classics", i.e. bad, overrated dramas? E-mail me if you want to read my totally altered subtitles of Ingmar Bergman's "Autumn Sonata", "Cries & Whispers", or "Passion Of Anne", but also the non-Bergman "Der Untergang".)
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difficult yes, but worth the effort
Michael Neumann21 December 2010
It's sometimes true that the most demanding movies can yield the most lasting rewards, and the penultimate film by the late Andrei Tarkovsky certainly puts the theory to the test. This was the first feature he directed outside the Soviet Union, and its protagonist is (like Tarkovsky himself was) a Russian artist exiled in Italy. But don't expect anything remotely plot-driven; like other Tarkovsky films it's a dense, challenging exploration of faith, madness and memory: beautiful, enigmatic, intellectual, and extremely slow moving. Many of the sequences are a labor to sit through, but the final shot, in which the director transplants a Russian cottage (complete with landscape) inside the massive walls of an ruined Gothic cathedral, is by itself compelling enough to erase the aftertaste of even the most tedious passages.
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EyesWideClockwork8 April 2017
A searing, heartbreaking love letter to Russia. This film should be seen; a film that reaches deep into your soul. It's pure, as Tarkovsky was. The images alone, with no words, can profusely affect me, and can leave you close to tears of beauty. Isn't this Tarkovsky at his most ethereal, and transcendent? The shots move ever so slowly, like waves, pulling in from the tide, slowly lapping on the shore...this is what it reminds me of. It feels very holy, and delicate; like a forbidden fruit; something that we should not be able to see, but, alas, we have had a chance to gaze upon it. It feels as if every slow step, and movement, is a painful and melancholy step into deep, lost memories. The language here, in this, is a rare moment in life, to witness such profundity; here, maybe one of Tarkovsky's Magnum Opus, we see him elevate to the highest transcending level, of language and alike; of one who understands the world deeply, and passionately. Surely, the opening scene is one of the most beautiful humanity has witnessed. Domiziana Giordano here externalizes beauty, almost like a goddess; ethereal. On the screen, we are witnessing paintings.. There's really no other film like Nostalgia. There are so many scenes here that are extraordinary. Words can't begin to describe the fire scene, juxtaposed with Beethoven; words can't capture the essence of this scene in the way Tarkovsky's images can. The candle scene may sear itself into your subconscious; slowly, but it will be there. Tarkovsky has the gift of bringing the beauty, from ordinary things; to make them beautiful, if not more than normally considered beautiful things; it shows he sees the world in a different way, a special way; someone who is truly alive. It truly is in another dimension. The romance, and relationship in the film is pure, powerful, and melancholic; it is awe-inspiring to watch these conversations; they are truthful, and can leave you gasping, as you have never seen emotions, quite portrayed in such a way. The film also brings into question human advancement; how we have come so far from our simple years, when we were merely in nature itself; humanity has changed, and with this, comes the many problems we have now; anxiety and worry plague many; alienation creeps on our minds; because life is so quick now, and everyone must become something important; the pressure is great; a far cry from our simpler days.
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almost too obtuse with some of its poetry, but it's the work of a master nonetheless
MisterWhiplash26 May 2008
Nostalghia, a film Andrei Tarkovsky directed while he was out of Russia and in Italy, is almost as personal, if not more-so, than his film the Mirror. The main character's first name is Andrei; there's mention of a poet named Tarkovsky (possibly Andrei's own father, if I'm not mistaken); the main character, while trying to do something else with his time (write a biography on a musician) is distracted by his personal turmoil over his family, who are back in his homeland, as was Tarkovsky to a degree (he might have been in exile, I'm not sure). And on top of this, we're given a substantial amount of black and white scenes, often either in slow-motion speed or directed by Tarkovsky to seem like such, from dreams and memories that call for a time and place that is specific but also ethereal, strange and probably symbolic.

So why then does the film not work if the creator's soul was poured entirely into it? I think, perhaps, there is almost *too* much of a reliance on creating a mood of meditation, for there to be total concentration upon the atmosphere that Tarkovsky has created- as he has in all of his movies- upon which is a sort of world unto itself, seen through its filmmaker in a way no other can see it. This may be expected for one already familiar with the director's methods, but even still there's so many silent moments, so many long takes with the most slight of camera movements, so much contemplation in place of dialog (there's only a few scenes where we see characters communicate in that manner), that it takes a lot out of the viewer to stay with the ideal of spiritual redemption that Tarkovsky is after.

Or is it redemption? Is it just simply a quest into oneself? Why does Andrei follow Domenico (brilliantly played in subtle/not-so-subtle form by Erland Josephsson), who cannot be really relied upon as a source of redemption or actual thought provocation? This is a man, after all, who yells out his speeches to bewildered crowds in a town square and then proceeds to go through a very severe act on himself (to Beethoven's 9th no less!) There's a lot of mystery to this character Andrei, and the actor portraying him, Oleg Jankovsky, is so subdued and detached at times that his female translator counterpart (possibly mad as well) can barely get a rise out of him save for the bloody nose. This strange sensation to seek in to a character that Tarkovsky leaves open to much interpretation, plus the procession of shots that seem to last for about as long as imaginable, makes it an uneasy viewing experience.

But at the same time that there's this uneasiness, there's also a wonderment that is going on as well. I couldn't pull myself away even if a part of my mind screamed out "where's the plot?" There's such a strong sense of direction going on, the moods created in certain places (i.e. the fog over the hot springs at the Spa, the darkness in the bedrooms, the chilling sensibility to the flashbacks/dreams), almost in spite of the lack of a really solid story, as it becomes less about what happens than about what is in this character, the nature of this exile in Italy as it makes Andrei pull into his own existential finale of sorts. That finale, as some may have read, is extraordinary, maybe the whole reason, as with Sacrifice's fire finale, that Tarkovsky made the movie in the first place: the poet carries a candle, as suggested by Domenico, across a sacred pool, and when it goes out he goes back, and does this again, and again, until finally he makes it across. Never a cutaway, always intuitively shot by Tarkovsky's cameraman, and it brings on a whole other quality that crosses paths between what is fiction in the film and reality in front of the camera.

While I praise the film, and recommend it, it's not the kind of work that someone who isn't familiar at all with Tarkovsky should see as an introduction. On the contrary, this might be more worthwhile as the final work in his (saddeningly) small body of work, as its pace and modus operandi can be further appreciated. Grade: A-
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Mythical, deep, and philosophical ...
music_rawks11 March 2007
This is one of the most beautiful movies I have ever seen. The main plot is about a Russian poet who comes to Italy to do some research on a composer. For those who love Action Thrillers: I have to say that this movie is probably not for you. This requires patience and a good deal of thinking. This isn't something you can watch with half your mind on what you're going to buy at the grocery store. What I love the most about this movie, is that you can see the characters thinking. What I find lacking in most movies, is the constant action, constant talking. In Nostalghia, you find yourself immersed in the character's thoughts.

Tarkovsky uses a great deal of visual metaphores as well; you have to pay close attention to what you're watching. It could turn out to be something completely different from what you thought it was to be.

All in all; this isn't something to be watched "lightheartedly". I recommend it to everyone. It truly is a work of art.
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I now understand the purpose of film
guod-214 November 2006
Having seen thousands of films over more than 40 years, until I watched this film I didn't really understand. 15 minutes in I knew what I'd been searching for. Perhaps the most insightful, beautiful, meaningful film of all time. This film communicates more with any 3-5 minutes of near silence/virtual inaction than any dialog or action scene I've ever experienced. None of those scenes are boring or slow, just still and quiet. And very alive. It also includes the most amazing/revealing set in my history of film, and the most psyche bending use of sound queues in the entire "art" of cinema. In summary, less is more and more and more. Want to experience cinema as art? Go no further.
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At 1a.m., it all made sense
sgtslut29 February 2000
At one in the morning, I threw in Nostalghia and let myself become inundated with sparseness and visual poetry. People describe this film as poetic; I 'd go further and say its like music too. I sometimes put it on and just do my things, and come back to it. It's a work of immense beauty and transcends normal movie viewing practices. Try it one day and put it on late at night, with a glass of beer. You'll see what I mean.
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man is not alone
dcant21 May 2000
Tarkovski's Nostalghia is the most stunning film, visually, emotionally, and intellectually that I have seen in recent years. If you care about films as art, then it is a must see. Exploring faith, alienation, and exile, the film is a meditation on the state of modern man. Nostalghia transcends the barriers of cinema and projects itself into our own consciousness and world, in a way that film should, in order for viewers to weigh their actions and relate with the human community.
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It is necessary to listen the voices that we find useless, because the problem of the world is that there is not more teachers.
Cristian3 January 2007
"Nostalghia" is the first Tarkowsky's work that i have seen. At the first and poor look, the movie is one of the most boring and low movies that i have seen. But, if you really watch it... "Nostalghia" is a real masterpiece. The film is about a Russian writer that want finds in Italy about a famous musician of later centuries. But he founds more than he wants. "Nostalghia" is one of the best deep reflection of the human being in any movie that i have ever seen. If the movie is slow, is because there is no a different way to show the most deep of the soul of a human been. And this poetic representation is the why "Nostalghia" is a masterpiece,

"Nostalghia" is more than anything, an spiritual film. A film that explores the contemporary culture since the point of an artist. Is too a reflection (and that is one of the most spectacular things that the film have) of the world and people that control it. Domenico's character, a man who has faith (Faith, look that important word, faith) that for the others, the man is crazy. The man is just any other waste of a group of crazy humans. And Domenico tell us that this world is controlled by people who proclaims it self like "people that this well of the head", and for that reason, the world is a "wonderful" one. And we see that the world is good, but too has wars, death and injustices.

"Nostalghia" is that and much more. Is a lovely and philosophical travel nonpareil. See it... your soul going to live a rich experience by a teacher that much of us ignore. And you going to see that the voice of this one is more valuable than we think.

*Sorry for the mistakes... well, if there any
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