T alt.: Nostal’gija. Sog., Scen.: Andrej Tarkovskij, Tonino Guerra. F.: Giuseppe Lanci. M.: Amadeo Salfa, Erminia Marani. Scgf.: Andrea Crisanti. Int.: Oleg Jankovskij (Andrej Gorčakov), Erland Josephson (Domenico), Domiziana Giordano (Eugenia), Delia Boccardo (moglie di Domenico), Patrizia Terreno (moglie di Andrej), Milena Vukotic (impiegata comunale), Laura De Marchi (cameriera). Prod.: Renzo Rossellini, Manolo Bolognini per la Opera Film, Rai 2, Mosfil’m, Sovinfil’m. DCP. D.: 125’. Col.
“You don’t understand anything about Russia,” says Oleg Yankovsky at the beginning of the film. During fraught times sorely lacking in mutual understanding, Nostalghia offers us Russia at its most exalted and esoteric; and, 40 years on, it once more challenges us to decipher it. The story, if you can call it that, is about a Russian poet (Yankovsky) searching in Italy for traces of an ancient Russian musician. Overwhelmed by his separation from both family and homeland, he remains indifferent to the charms of his interpreter, the Botticelli-like Eugenia (Domiziana Giordano) but lends his ear to the profundities of the deranged Domenico (Erland Josephson). Things end badly: Domenico immolates himself in Piazza del Campidoglio while the Russian poet collapses, lifeless, after having succeeded in crossing a thermal bath while bearing a lit candle. This is the fabula; the actual content tells a different story. As slow and dense as a prayer, Andrei Tarkovsky’s penultimate film is a poem about separation and faith, the director’s farewell to a difficult and ungrateful homeland, his personal eulogy to madness and an enchanting manifesto against the dictatorship of beauty, sculpted out of mesmerising locations: the submerged church of Santa Maria in Vittorino, the ruins of the Abbey of San Galgano, the crypt of San Pietro in Tuscania, the sheltered city of Calcata, and the thermal baths of Bagno Vignoni. Geometric framing, gazes into the camera, a soundtrack filled with singing, dripping, barking, and images continually flooded with rain, snow, thermal baths and puddles – sometimes in black-and-white and other times in colour or half-tones. This was a difficult restoration for the Cineteca Nazionale, made possible thanks to Beppe Lanci, the film’s director of photography, who followed and curated the operation. The result is a hymn to life, poetry, conjugal love, and God. Or better yet: faith in something greater than ourselves, regardless of whether it actually exists or not. As Domenico cries after climbing on the statue of Mark Anthony: “Somebody must shout that we will build the pyramids. It doesn’t matter whether or not we build them, but we must feed the desire.”