Nostalghia | Chicago Reader

Nostalghia

The subject of Andrei Tarkovsky's 1983 film, his first made outside the USSR, is his longing to return to the USSR—a return portrayed as a recapturing of spiritual, moral, and emotional values. Oleg Yankovsky, who appeared in Tarkovsky's 1975 The Mirror, plays a Russian poet visiting Italy to research the life of an 18th-century composer. His translator (the radiant Dominziana Giordano) appears to be in love with him, but he is more intrigued by a local madman (Erland Josephson) who has become obsessed with the idea of carrying a lighted candle the windy length of a hot spring bath once used by Saint Catherine. The film is lovely but punishingly slow, packed with imagery that seems at once hopelessly obscure and crushingly obvious (Yankovsky's yearning for spiritual companionship is expressed by the specter of a dog). It aims for a hushed, hypnotic, incantatory effect, and it does succeed in inducing some kind of trance.

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