Nostalghia 4K UHD Review: Out, Out, Brief Candle

In director Andrei Tarkovsky’s Nostalghia (1983), a glum Russian poet, Andrei (Oleg Yankovsky), treks the Italian countryside with his comely translator, Eugenia (Domiziana Giordano). Longing to return to his homeland, he’s out to research the life of an exiled 18th-century composer. Along the way, he meets a local nut (Erland Josephson), a self-destructive poet who’s convinced the world has slipped into spiritual ruin. Said poet rambles on about carrying a tiny lit candle across a hot spring—a test, a cause, on which Andrei becomes fixated.    

Buy Nostalghia 4K UHD

Like most of Tarkovsky’s films, Nostalghia is a trancey marvel. It’s both opaque and gratifying in a way the artiste can call his own—the master’s line. The Tuscan imagery is heavy with rain-soaked ruins. Many of the shots are slow zooms or tracking shots. I’m not sure I ‘get’ the movie. But, with some Tarkovsky, that is beside the point. 

Nostalghia is an experience, a mood-piece. Is it poetic twaddle? Perhaps. Was I spellbound? You’re darn tootin’ I was. 

Few filmmakers capture an extended dream state (or dream-space) on celluloid quite like Tarkovsky does. Some viewers might consider Nostalghia a snoozer. A chore. Others will think it a welcome and refreshing dip into something sublime. Or something good that strives for sublimity.

I fall into the latter camp. When I saw it last week, I was prepared to surrender to it. And I wasn’t gobsmacked. But the movie affected me. It continues to unfurl in my mind. 

It might do the same for you.

Restored in 4K UHD from the original camera negative (the film received a restoration in 2022), the Kino Lorber release of Nostalghia makes the movie look brand new. This is a 2-disc set—one is the 4K version, another is a Blu-ray. On both discs is a new audio commentary by film historian Daniel Bird. Exclusive to the Blu-ray is a new interview with cinematographer Giuseppe Lanci, who supervised the color correction of the restoration. The Blu-ray disc also has the re-release trailer, along with Voyage in Time, a 1983 documentary on the pre-production of the film. 

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Jack Cormack

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