The (im)possible translation of Nostalgia

Author: Skakov, Nariman

Source: Studies in Russian & Soviet Cinema, Volume 3, Number 3, December 2009 , pp. 309-333(25)

Publisher: Intellect

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Nostalgia (1983), Andrei Tarkovsky's first foreign production, represents crisis the distressing longing for one's own land is mixed with the rejection of the concept of translation, which consequently leads to a state of permanent alienation and forms an irremediable breach between cultures. Arsenii Tarkovsky's poem As a child I once fell ill and the Italian translation of his My sight, my strength, dims embody the film's discursive dilemma. The impossible possibility of contact between the two foreign cultures is embodied by the two male protagonists the madman and the utterly confused individual who both die for the sake of an obscure ideal. The film's climax is reached in the poetic declamation by Gorchakov in Russian and by Domenico in the Italian translation. The reading takes place in the dilapidated flooded church, which might be perceived as an embodiment of the ruins of the Tower of Babel. Its incompleteness relates the Babylonian failure to arrive at a monumental completion. This sense of ambiguity also dominates the film's concluding sequence Gorchakov's imaginary return home. The final image, the open space of the Cistercian church accommodating Gorchakov's Russian house, is a resolution that resolves nothing but nevertheless completes the film.

Keywords: Andrei Tarkovsky; Arsenii Tarkovsky; nostalgia; poetry; translation

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Stanford University.

Publication date: December 1, 2009

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  • Studies in Russian & Soviet Cinema focuses on pre-revolutionary, Soviet and post- Soviet film, its aesthetic development, and its position between ideology and industry. SRSC invites contributions that constitute original research. The journal seeks to promote research from established scholars as well as to encourage researchers new to the field.
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