12 The Aesthetics of Overflow: Andrei Tarkovsky’s Nostalghia (1983) in Duration
In Andrei Tarkovsky’s penultimate film, Russian poet Andrei Gorchakov is set adrift in Italy, ostensibly researching the life of Pavel Sosnovsky, a Russian composer who had lived in Italy and had committed suicide upon his return to Russia.1 At the edge of the pool of St Catherine in the village of Bagno Vignoni, Andrei encounters Domenico; according to the village’s residents and the guests of the hotel, Domenico is a lunatic. Andrei is drawn to Domenico, however, perhaps recognizing that both men suffer from a failure of containment. Domenico locked up his family for seven years to await the end of the world, before his wife and children escaped, while Andrei’s visions of his family in the Russian countryside continually intrude onto his present, refusing to be contained within the space of the past. Andrei is suffering from a nearly debilitating nostalgia. Following the encounter of the two men, the identities of Andrei and Domenico begin to merge and overflow into one another, until Andrei takes it upon himself to complete Domenico’s ultimate errand: to save all of mankind by crossing the pool of St Catherine with a lit candle. While Andrei crosses the pool in a continuous long-take lasting just over nine minutes, at the end of which he collapses and dies, Domenico sets himself alight at a demonstration in Rome, becoming a human candle.
The pool in Bagno Vignoni is named...
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