Andrei Tarkovsky’s ’Nostalghia’
To this eye, many filmmakers have spent careers trying to emulate the style of Andrei Tarkovsky, a large-looming poet of the cinematic form. None have matched him.
His films were not defined by one aesthetic style -- some are shrouded in light, others exist entirely in shadows; some rely on extremely long takes, others cut rapidly from one scene to the next -- but rather by the depth of his thoughtful inquiries into the human condition. Tarkovsky remains one of the titans lording over the history of Russian cinema. And "Nostalghia," one of his last pictures and recently released onto Blu-ray via Kino Lorber, details the struggling mindset Tarkovsky entered when dispelled from his native land.
The picture follows a poet, of the same surname as Mr. Tarkovsky, traveling throughout Italy researching a project. As he speaks with locals, falls into an affair, and, to be frank, sees the sights, he drifts into a deeply spiritual despair. This was Tarkovsky's first film made out of his native Russia, and it's hard not to read it as a existentially damning portrait of a man in exile. To merely call it bleak or any other describing adjective would be a reduction of the complexities of the thoughts it presents: Tarkovsky's film, his second-last, is no less than philosophical.
Kino's Blu-ray release of the film comes with but a single extra: A theatrical trailer. However, the real benefit of this rerelease is not supplemental materials -- after all, Tarkovsky's work is so open to interpretation that having people explain it to viewers could be as confusing as it is illuminating -- but the high-definition transfer of the film itself. So few filmmakers, perhaps none, have placed their focus on textures the way Tarkovsky does. Like a painter, his eye is never solely drawn to the center of the frame -- it fills compositions out from corner to corner.
"Nostalghia" is one of the Tarkovsky film that relies on minutes-long takes, unbroken by editing. The texture, visible theatrically and here, if not always on DVD, is what brings those shots to life. Not the characters, but drips of rain falling from above the frame. The pleasant breathing of a tree in the wind. The starkness of the monochromatic frames Tarkovsky employs in certain scenes. Every splotch of color, every minute aesthetic detail. With Tarkovsky, every film was a poem. The definition offered here -- the film presented in great detail, even if filmic scratches are quite common -- allows us to read every line with an increased clarity.