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Tarkovsky’s Nostalghia – A Drunken Review

There’s certain directors whose name you have to append to the film when you mention it. It’s not because the film needs to be differentiated from films with the same name – this one is spelt differently from other films called Nostalgia, of which I’m sure there are a few. You don’t say Bay’s Transformers to make sure nobody confuses it with Lou Reed’s marvellous album (which is singular rather than plural anyway). Anyway, where was I? Oh yes. Drunken film reviews and naming convention. I’m only tipsy, so, back in a moment.

Yes. Tarkovsky’s Nostalgia. With Tarkovsky (other than Solaris, his most famous, but worst film), you know what you’re getting, about 180k works of art. Each shot is chosen and framed beautifully. Case in point. There’s a bit where the depressed Russian poet is in the depressed Italian nutter’s house. It pans past the poet and across a shelf that looks like it’s been laid out for a Renaissance artist to paint a still life. Then there’s the Russian poet’s hotel room. There’s almost perfect symmetry of light and dark (where something happens where it looks like the Russian poet dreams about his female translator maybe having an affair with his wife before starting at him and then possibly being a werewolf).

When you’re watching a film, do you ever get the feeling that the director is trying to tell you something via props? In this, there’s a lot of bottles in the Italian nutter’s house catching water from a leaky roof, as well as a piece of plastic sheeting doing the same, but looking like it’s about to break. Maybe it’s something about pointlessness, inability to hold back life and impending threat, but it’s never directly addressed. Maybe Tarkovsky overestimates people like me. Maybe I did understand and underestimate myself. I only found out about impostor syndrome this week.

Like all Tarkovsky films, there’s long tracking and panning shots and footage of ground water (what is it with that). There’s black and white and changes in film stock (about three different kinds in this – again, there has to be some meaning to this, but I can’t quite place it). There’s also isolated houses. Maybe he lived in one. Maybe it’s the beauty of isolation. Maybe it’s the fear of isolation. They both exist – fear and comfort from the same thing. Maybe it’s purely aesthetic. I mean the end of the film… Well false perspective and isolation and stuff. You get the feeling that, visually, nothing is left to chance. Back to the poet’s hotel room. The chair in the bathroom. I bet he spent an hour placing it and replacing it.

It’s a beautiful film and proof that even where there’s no obvious narrative, Tarkovsky can hold the viewer’s attention. He trusts his actors implicitly. They can deliver monologues and soliloquys in contrived fashions without interrupting the flow of the film.