How could I have imagined as I was making Nostalghia that the stifling sense of longing that fills the screen space of that film was to become my lot for the rest of my life; that from now until the end of my days I would bear the painful malady within myself?
– Andrei Tarkovsky: Sculpting in Time
Director Andrei Tarkovsky recasts his lifelong cinematic motif of humanity’s quest for faith in the waterlogged and mist-ensconced countryside of Italy for his philosophical masterpiece Nostalghia. Andrei Gorchakov (Oleg Yankovsky) is a misanthropic Russian scholar researching the life of an exiled Russian composer who committed suicide. With the help of his beautiful guide, Eugenia (Domiziana Giordano), Andrei visits mystical and religious sites on the trail of the late composer’s legacy.
In the shadow of the doomed composer’s memory, Andrei finds himself crippled by a melancholy nostalgia for his Russian homeland, only to discover redemption in the form of a madman, Domenico (Erland Josephson), whom he encounters at St. Catherine’s pool, a religious site in Sienna. Domenico, a former professor who once locked his family away for seven years in anticipation of Armageddon, now leads a seemingly insane existence, believing that if he can travel across the pool with a lighted candle, he can save all of humanity.
As in his mystical film The Mirror, Tarkovsky weaves a dense, mediatative pattern of images – freely mixing past and present, dream and reality, color and black and white, landscape and architecture – with the scholar and the madman acting as allegorical players in a metaphysical trial by fire and water.