Nostalghia (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
January 9, 2014 by Dennis Amith
if you have watched a Tarkovsky film before, you know that part of the enjoyment of a Tarkovsky film is that it’s like a painting that begs of you to ask questions. Begs of you to give your own interpretation. And for the most part, like any great work of art, appreciate it, no matter how abstract the film may be. “Nostalghia” is not for everyone. Then again, Andrei Tarkovsky films are not for everyone. But for those who can appreciate Tarkovsky’s art form via film, then you will feel that “Nostalghia” was wonderful filmmaking. And that Tarkovsky has yet created another fine masterpiece. “Nostalghia” is recommended!
FILM RELEASE: 1983
DURATION: 125 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:66:1, Italian and Russian LPCM 2.0 with optional English subtitles
COMPANY: Kino Lorber
RATED: Not Rated
Release Date: January 24, 2014
Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky
Screenplay by Andrei Tarkovsky and Tonino Guerra
Produced by Franco Rossellini, Daniel Toscan du Plantier
Executive Producer: Manolo Bolognini, Renzo Rossellini
Cinematography by Giuseppe Lanci
Edited by Erminia Marani, Amedeo Salfa
Production Design by Andrea Crisanti
Set Decoration by Mauro Passi
Costume Design by Lina Nerli Taviani
Oleg Yankovskiy as Andrei Gorchakov
Erland Josephson as Domenico
Domiziana Giordano as Eugenia
Patrizia Terreno as Andrei’s Wife
The Russian poet Andrei Gorchakov, accompanied by guide and translator Eugenia, is traveling through Italy researching the life of an 18th-century Russian composer. In an ancient spa town, he meets the lunatic Domenico, who years earlier had imprisoned his own family in his house for seven years to save them from the evils of the world. Seeing some deep truth in Domenico’s act, Andrei becomes drawn to him. In a series of dreams, the poet’s nostalgia for his homeland and his longing for his wife, his ambivalent feelings for Eugenia and her Italy, and his sense of kinship with Domenico become intertwined.
From respected Soviet and Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky (“Ivan’s Childhood”, “Andrei Rublev”, “Solaris”, “The Mirror”, “The Stalker”) comes one of his last films that he wrote and directed before dying of terminal lung cancer in 1986.
The film “Nostalghia” is a Soviet/Italian film released back in 1983. Co-written with legendary film writer Tonino Guerra (“Amarcord”, “La Notte”, “Blow-Up”), the film marks the first film that Tarkovsky directed outside of the U.S.S.R. with production courtesy of Italian State Television and French film studio Gaumont, the film would win the “Prize of the Ecumenical Jury” and “Best Director” and the “FIPRESCI Prize” at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival.
Unfortunately, Soviet authorities prevented the film from winning the Palme d’Or courtesy of Sergei Bondarchuk, the head of Soviet delegation who successfully campaigned against “Nostalghia” from being awarded a Palme d’Or (Note: Despite being one of the most important filmmakers of all time, in his homeland, he did not receive critical acclaim. Also, for a long time, various political parties in U.S.S.R. had problems Tarkovsky’s historical approach.).
But for those who have watched “Nostalghia”, many have been captivated by this mysterious film, which will now be released on Blu-ray in Jan. 2014 courtesy of Kino Lorber.
“Nostalghia” begins with a shot of a family in the countryside as they come down a hill. We see the family, their dog, a hill, a tree and approaching fog accompanied to a woman singing. When the family and their dog approach a hut, we see the tree and then the we one segment complete.
As the film begins, we are introduced to Russian writer Andrei Gorchakov (portrayed by Oleg Yanovsky) who has traveled to Italy in order to research the 18th-century Russian composer Pavel Sosnovsky (based on Maxmilian Beryozovsky, who worked in Italy). Accompanying him on the trip is interpreter Eugenia (portrayed by Domiziana Giordano) as both are visiting a convent in the countryside.
Both look at frescoes by Piero della Francesca and often Eugenia questions faith, of why women are mostly seen in the convent and quite often at times, Andrei is more distant towards his translator. But Eugenia appears to be interested in Andrei.
But being in Italy doesn’t feel so right for Andrei and he wants to go back to Russia but hasn’t had a chance to go back due to circumstances.
But Andrei meets Domenico (portrayed by Erland Josephson), a strange individual, but known for trying to walk across a drained mineral spring pool with a lit candle. Domenico believes if he can do it, he will save the world. But the more Andrei gets to know Domenico and his past, Andrei begins having these dreams of the people he has come in contact with in Italy, primarily Eugenia, himself as Domenico but also his wife.
“Nosthalgia” is an intelligent film about one’s love for his country but also his feelings of being in another country. A man in search of something, that may be nothing. A film that is a perception of what may be absolute and also inaccessible.
“Nosthalgia” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:66:1 aspect ratio). The film was newly mastered in HD from archival 35 mm film elements. While certain portions of the films show its age, the film also shows great contrast during its black and white scenes, while color scenes look good, but look as if the film was indeed a product of the ’80s.
There is a good number of white specks that can be seen in this film and while watching the film, the more I wished this film was cleaned up because it was a Tarkovsky film that I really enjoyed and felt it deserved much better in overall picture quality.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Nostalghia” is presented in Italian and Russian LPCM 2.0 with optional English subtitles. The dialogue and music is clear and detected no significant hiss or crackle, pops during my viewing of the film.
“Nosthalgia” comes with a theatrical trailer.
On paper, reading a synopsis of “Nostalghia” can not justify the true nature of Andrei Tarkovsky’s film.
In simplistic descriptions about a Russian writer researching an 18th Century Russian composer in Italy with a translator. It seems too simplistic and makes you believe it’s more about the writer and his new discoveries.
But in truth, “Nostalghia” is less about the the Russian writer, Andrei Gortchakov’s job or the person that he is writing about, but more or less reality and dreamscape and possibly harboring the emotions that Tarkovsky feels within.
A Soviet filmmaker, Andrei Tarkovsky made a film in Italy. A man who has never received any major respect for his filmmaking in his homeland but in Europe and around the world, he is considered one of the greatest filmmakers. He is also a sick man who is dying of lung cancer and would succumb to cancer, three years later.
“Nostalghia” is about longing but it’s also about loss and the conflicted feelings that reside within.
This is not a film that can be watched in one setting and possibly understand it fully. It’s a film that you need to watch multiple times in order to gain an appreciation for it.
With my first setting, I was appreciative of the way various shots were set up. It’s an artistic film that captures melancholy and tortured souls, but on the other hand it captures characters longing for something, wanting something but never satisfied.
Andrei Gortchakov wants to return back home to Russia, but he can’t. He is seen constantly bleeding from his nose, not feeling well but yet the people he meets, try to put some perspective into his life? Are they real? Are they fantasies? Are each people we see throughout the movie actually an embodiment of the inner-turmoil that Andrei Gortchakov is feeling?
That is for the viewer to interpret. There are many things to interpret? But Tarkovsky is never a man of simplicity. On paper, synopsis seem simple, his films are never easy to predict, never easy to fully comprehend until you watch it and each time discovering something new.
But as Andrei Gortchakov is the main centerpiece of the film, then there is Domenico, a crazed man who believes the world is to end. So much that he kept his family hostage for years because he is haunted by the end of the world.
A bleak second half, especially for its final minutes, you find yourself saying “why?” and “what?”. But if you have watched a Tarkovsky film before, you know that part of the enjoyment of a Tarkovsky film is that it’s like a painting that begs of you to ask questions. Begs of you to give your own interpretation. And for the most part, like any great work of art, appreciate it, no matter how abstract the film may be.
As for the Blu-ray release, while “Nostalghia” is newly mastered in HD from archival 35 mm film elements, while black and white scenes are well-contrast and some moments during the color scenes look better than others. There is a good amount of white specks that can be seen throughout the film and wished the film received restoration work and a good cleanup. But for the most part, I suppose until that happens, this is the best version of “Nostalghia” on video at the moment.
Lossless audio is LPCM 2.0 Italian and Russian with optional English subtitles. Dialogue and music were clear and detected no major hiss or crackling. And for special features, you get a three minute theatrical trailer, but wished there was a featurette included or even audio commentary.
Overall, “Nostalghia” is not for everyone. Then again, Andrei Tarkovsky films are not for everyone. But for those who can appreciate Tarkovsky’s art form via film, then you will feel that “Nostalghia” was wonderful filmmaking.
And that Tarkovsky has yet created another fine masterpiece.
“Nostalghia” is recommended!
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