Film Reviews
Photo courtesy of Kino Lorber

Director Andrei Tarkovsky is revered among film theorists and lovers of challenging cinema. He prefers interrogations into the essence of complex characters wrestling with their present and their past. In “Nostalghia,” the intrusion of memory and its impact on current circumstances, the nature of faith and the difficulty of its embrace handicap Russian author Andrei Gorchakov.

Accompanied by his Italian guide Eugenia, Andrei visits Italy to learn details of eighteenth-century Russian musician Pavel Sosnovsky who committed suicide upon his return to Russia. Having traveled across Italy to the Tuscan shrine of the Madonna of Childbirth, Andrei refuses to enter, such is his incapacitating ennui. He asks, "What is faith?" Andrei's grappling with this question soon involves Domenico, recently released from an asylum after having locked his own family up for seven years. He believes that he must walk from end to end of St. Catherine's mineral pool, holding a lit candle, to save the world. Though deranged, standing atop the Capitoline Hill statue of Marcus Aurelius, Domenico will express the film’s most heartening sentiments, shouting that if we want this disjointed world to go forward, "We must hold hands."

This puzzling, elusive narrative unfolds through mesmerizing scenes with flashbacks in black and white and current events in muted lighting and color. Opening the film and occasionally interjected later, Andrei's memories appear, disrupting his equilibrium. Beethoven, Verdi, and Russian folk music interpret and obscure details. Characteristic of Tarkovsky, "Nostalghia" is comprised of prolonged takes, an absence of exposition, dreamlike moments, existential dread, autobiographical details, and unusual, but striking compositions. In a 1962 interview, Tarkovsky said, "All art, of course, is intellectual, but for me, all the arts, and cinema even more so, must above all be emotional and act upon the heart." In further discussing "Nostalghia," he explained that the world conveys "the love for your homeland and the melancholy that arises from being far away." The immensely memorable "Nostalghia" emphatically exemplifies his ideas through both intellectual and emotional appeal.  

In Italian and Russian with English subtitles, the beautiful 4K restoration of “Nostalghia” screens at Webster University’s Winifred Moore auditorium Friday, March 8, through Sunday, March 10, at 7:00 each of those evenings. For more information, you may visit the film series website.

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