The opening scene is a single shot showing a family and their dog descending a hill, a large tree in the foreground, the distant countryside vanishing into the rolling fog. The camera pushes in imperceptibly, but continuously from the beginning. On the soundtrack, possibly diegetic, a sole woman sings. Meanwhile, the film credits scroll up over the scene. The family and dog, upon reaching the area in front of a hut, stop moving. Verdi’s Messa da Requiem fades in, overlapping for a brief moment with the woman singing. Once the foreground tree fully disappears, the scene freezes; the credits continue until the title appears, and the scene fades to black. The Requiem continues an audible transition to the second scene.
The Russian writer Andrei Gorchakov (Oleg Yankovsky) travels to Italy to research the life of 18th-century Russian composer Pavel Sosnovsky, who lived there and committed suicide after his return to Russia (modeled on Ukrainian composer Maksym Berezovsky). He and his comely interpreter Eugenia travel to a convent in the middle of the Tuscan countryside where they look at frescoes by Piero della Francesca. Back at their hotel Andrei feels displaced and longs to go back to Russia, but unnamed circumstances seem to get in the way. Eugenia is smitten with Andrei and is offended that he will not sleep with her, claiming that she has a better boyfriend waiting for her.
Andrei meets and befriends a strange man named Domenico, who is famous in the village for his insistence in trying to walk across a drained mineral spring pool with a lit candle. He claims that when finally achieving it, he will save the world. They both share a feeling of alienation from their surroundings. Domenico says, while playing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, that mathematics are wrong, that 1+1 does not equal 2 but a bigger 1, and illustrates it with two drops of olive oil. (This is a reference to one of Guerra’s collaborations with Michelangelo Antonioni, Red Desert.) Andrei later learns that Domenico used to live in a lunatic asylum until the post-fascistic state closed them and now lives in the street. He also learns that Domenico had a family and was obsessed in keeping them inside his house in order to save them from the end of the world, until they were freed by the local police.
During a dream-like sequence, Andrei sees himself as Domenico and has visions of his wife, Eugenia and the Madonna as being all one and the same. Andrei seems to cut his research short and plans to leave for Russia, until he gets a call from Eugenia, who wishes to say goodbye and tell him that she met Domenico in Rome by chance and that he asked if Andrei has walked across the pool himself as he promised. Andrei says he has, although that is not true. Eugenia is with her boyfriend, but he seems disinterested in her and appears to be involved in dubious business affairs. Later, Domenico delivers a speech in the city about the need of mankind of being true brothers and sisters and to return to a simpler way of life. Finally, he plays the fourth movement of Beethoven’s Ninth and immolates himself. Meanwhile, Andrei goes to the drained pool. His attempt to walk from one side of the pool to the other proves more difficult than he imagines. It remains unclear if the fumes, his poor heart condition or both impede him. As he finally achieves his goal, he dies.
The closing image begins as a medium shot of Andrei sitting with his dog in the Russian countryside of the opening scene. As the camera slowly pulls out, the hut and his family are shown to be within the ruins of an enormous Italian church.
2.40GB | 2h 05m | 960×576 | mkv