A Russian man named Andrei is in Tuscany. Not the beautiful sunny Tuscany we’re used to seeing, but a foggy and rainy one. He is holding a candle, attempting to carry it from one end of a drained pool to the other. In an astounding nine minute long lateral tracking shot, we see his struggle. He doesn’t get too far in his first attempt, and slowly walks back to the beginning of the pool, going to start again. He starts once more. He makes it a little further, attempting to shield the lit candle from the wind. He fails once again, although he’s made it a bit farther. On this third attempt, Andrei is devoting everything he has to keeping this candle lit. On his face is a look of intense concentration, shielding the candle with his coat and acting as if his life depends on this moment. Finally he makes it. He approaches the other side of the pool, and with every step closer, he struggles more. His legs become weak, sweat is on his brow. He carefully sets this lit candle down onto the side of the pool, and promptly dies. This is the final scene of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Nostalghia. What does this mean? What could it possibly symbolize about our character and his journey? Well, probably nothing if you’re to take the words of the film’s director into account.
Andrei Tarkovsky is widely considered to be one of the greatest filmmakers to ever live. He was hailed by Swedish film maestro Ingmar Bergman as “the most important director of our time.” His movies are rife with incredible imagery and beautiful storytelling. However, one unique characteristic that separates Tarkovsky from most storytellers is his aversion to symbols and symbolism in his films. Tarkovsky disliked the idea and believed it could ruin the composition of a scene and create a distraction for the audience. This is, by all means, a pretty unusual viewpoint. Symbolism has been an incredibly important part of almost all art since words were first put down to tell a story. So why did Tarkovsky think it was so harmful, and how does it relate to his own work and perhaps other films?
Continue reading Nostalghia (1983)
When flailing door-to-door encyclopedia salesman Alfredo learns his position is being terminated, he and his wife Carmen are willing to do pretty much anything to keep their meager income from petering out completely. Carmen wants desperately to have a baby and Alfredo basically just wants to keep his wife (and his landlady) happy. The solution? Take up an offer to produce “educational” tapes detailing the reproductive habits of Spanish couples.
Needless to say, hilarity ensues. Thankfully, the hilarity of Torremolinos 73 isn’t your run-of-the-mill oh-no-someone-found-our-sex-tape shenanigans. The romps that the couple film become increasingly elaborate, the landlady is paid but mortified, Carmen becomes a sex symbol throughout Scandinavia – and Alfredo? Alfredo becomes infatuated with cinema. He’s filming his incredibly beautiful sexy wife in every skimpy uniform imaginable and it’s the filming aspect of it that fascinates him.
Javier Cámara and Candela Peña are fantastic as the two leads, which aren’t overly complex characters but are still more layered than any to be found in a typical American comedy. The 1973 setting of the film also gives Torremolinos 73 some unexpected flair. All in all, the overall aesthetic and comedic arc of the movie are quite obviously more important to director Pablo Berger than the quick (and often cheap) laughs.
The funniest parts stem from Alfredo’s fascination with Ingmar Bergman as his own cinematic techniques become increasingly mature. Picture a softcore porno flick filmed with as much care as The Seventh Seal – complete with a young Mads Mikkelsen in the black-garbed role of Death himself – and you’ll have an idea of what Alfredo’s directorial debut looks like.
Torremolinos 73 is small and simple and enjoyable, outlandish enough in the premise alone without ever needing to rise to the absurd heights it easily could. As stated elsewhere, the Netflix offerings for modern foreign films can be hit-or-miss; while Torremolinos 73 isn’t breaking any new ground or even good for a true bust-up laugh, it’ll definitely put a smile on your face.