A Fond Farewell
Nostalghia.com wishes to thank Laura Geronazzo/Ultreya for kindly providing us
with this English translation of Mr. Guerra's foreword to the book
Tonino Guerra is a prolific Italian screenwriter who has
worked with Antonioni (on L'Avventura), Tarkovsky (on Nostalghia) and others.
At my wedding in Moscow in 1977, Tarkovsky had a Polaroid camera in his hand, and he moved
happily about with this instrument that he had discovered only recently. He and Antonioni were
my witnesses at the wedding, and as was the custom then, it fell to them to choose the music for the
band to play when it came time to sign the marriage certificate. They chose The Blue Danube.
Antonioni, too, made great use of a Polaroid at the time, and I remember that during a
reconnaissance in Uzbekistan for a film that we then never made, he wanted to give three elderly
Muslims a photograph he had made of them. The eldest, after casting a brief glance at the image,
gave it back to him, saying: "Why stop time?" We were left gaping in wonder, speechless to reply
to this extraordinary refusal.
Tarkovsky often reflected on this flight of "time" and wanted just this: to stop it, even with
these quick glances made with the Polaroid.
Now here we are enjoying a part of his work. Images like clouds of butterflies around the
eyes of someone who felt the brevity of life, a perception not given by illness, which was as yet in
the future, but by the awareness that everything is made up of fleeting glances to be kept close at
hand for a journey which sometimes gets rough.
Just thirteen kilometers from Moscow, in his peasant's house at Miasnoie, he was happy to
cultivate his garden or watch the sweat evaporate off a horse's back, creating wisps of fog. At least
twice I saw the family leaving from Moscow, and I happened also to witness their return, the car
loaded down with sacks, paper parcels, and old suitcases. The dog Dak was always the last to climb
into the car at departure and the first to jump out when they came back. The last time, Andrei did
not go up to their apartment on the thirteenth floor. We set out walking arm in arm along the dirt
path toward the outskirts of our neighborhood near Mosfilm, where I was watching the birds eat
bread crumbs from the table on the terrace. He wanted to talk about his stay in the country,
undoubtedly with the desire to travel back there immediately with his words.
He had taken the photographs that now I see again in this beautiful book. Glances at his
wife, his son, and that world of light fog where the dew creates pearls on the spider webs.
Later we were together for a long time in Italy, where the immense visions of Russia that as
you look at them wrap around your face to your ears, here everything stopped in the vicinity of his
nose. I see again the marble portal of the tumbledown convent at Martirano that by now only
sheltered a big tree with autumn leaves, which every once in a while would fall. He made a wish on
the tree: "If a leaf falls now while I am talking, it is a sign that my wife and son Andrea will get
permission to join me in Italy." But the leaf did not fall.
We traveled extensively from Naples southwards, where he was struck by the beauty of the
Baroque architecture of Lecce and the vision of Trani Cathedral. By the time we finally arrived in
Bagno Vignoni, the ideas for the structure of a film were entwined around a story he liked. I
remember when we entered the little church on the edge of the water-filled square, where the vapor
rising from the water lent distance to a landscape of ancient houses. A warm light that morning
streamed through the dusty windows and came to rest on faded decorations on a wall. He surprised
me sitting on a bench, as though I were just the right shadow to accentuate the caress of the sun on
the walls beyond my dark body.
The melancholy of seeing things for the last time is the highly mysterious and poetic essence
that these images leave with us. It is as though Andrei wanted to transmit his own enjoyment
quickly to others. In short, bread to break and eat together, not just to appease his desire for
enchantment. And they give you the gift of the aroma of a fond farewell.