VOYAGE IN TIME (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1983)

I don’t know one piece of Italian art from another but am riveted by Tempo di viaggio, the documentary that Andrei Tarkovsky made in Italy while also making Nostalghia (1983), his first film after fleeing the Soviet Union. Part of the film consists of a debate between him and scenarist Tonino Guerra, Antonioni’s writer, about which locations to use. Tarkovsky, whom we see here in jeans, always seems sure about what he should shoot. He rejects architecture that Guerra suggests for being “too beautiful.” Ah, the requirements of art and of fastidious self-exiles!
     It’s a mess of a film, with this and that thrown in, with alternative images of parched landscape and Tarkovsky’s signature wetness (a layer of fog clinging to water), and a sense of strangeness that encompasses Italy’s foreignness and Tarkovsky’s separation from family. One wonders how Tarkovsky could bear to leave Russia when such abandonment requires a futile search for his own soul.
     I do not have any idea how devious Tempo di viaggio is. Going in, one assumes that the healthy debates between Tarkovsky and Guerra aren’t scripted. Ingmar Bergman is Tarkovsky’s god of cinema; remember the interviews of actors in The Passion of Anna?
     Andrei indulges Tonino’s reading of a poem of his (Tonino’s, that is). When discussing Antonioni’s L’avventura (1960), whose script Tonino helped write, and referring to its “conditional action,” is Andrei speaking from his heart or placating Tonino? Tarkovsky registers his love, also, for Mizoguchi’s Ugetsu (1953) and Jean Vigo, the “father of modern French cinema” whose “tenderness” especially attracts him.
     Tarkovsky, among the most difficult-to-read of all brilliant filmmakers, says he is after “simplicity,” such as Bresson achieved in cinema, Bach, music, Leonardo, painting, Tolstoi, literature. Is he trying to find himself away from home?

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