Tarkovsky’s “Nostalgia” Half Asleep

Why are Andrei Tarkovsky’s films even a thing? They’re a meandering mess with endlessly long shot after long shot, slow tracks in and slow tracks sideways, sophomoric monologues about coping with existence dribbling on. Pretentious artsy crap. But I’m obsessed.

I was over tired when I went to see the recently restored version of Nostalgia. As much as I was enraptured by the opening shot, I was already falling asleep. It seemed a volatile thing because that’s where Tarkovsky lives, on that line between consciousness.

On the verge of madness? Was that it? Or clarity? A distant voice called out. A following tracking shot across a drained pond. I was almost scared. Or maybe I was and couldn’t admit that. I was understanding something, or forgetting what I thought I knew.

Wave That Flag: Nostalgia is Everything

My script, Wave That Flag, details my Deadhead days back in the ’80s. Quite simply, it’s just another coming-of-age, I-can’t-believe-I-did-that, Don’t-do-what-I-do-or-maybe-do-I-don’t-care, Those-were-the-days movie. It’s all about me, a plea for attention. Me. Aren’t you amazed by the things I did? Wasn’t I crazy? No one does it like me. That’s right. Look at me.

But that’s why it works. The big theme is chasing down the music. At its essence, it is about a sound, a path as it were, and I was on it, and I went in a direction that could be so clearly understood, that everyone can understand, and it was an incredible place to be. I was astonished that I was on it, just there in the middle of magical fantastical place, through the woods and fire, where nothing but amazing things happened.

It was a communal thing of splendor and everything was ahead. It could never end. That was the certainty. This eternity, the whole thing laid wide open, it would go on forever.

And then it didn’t. And so, it’s really about losing that, never having it, or remembering what it was like when I didn’t know what I know now, if I know anything. So, yes, nostalgia.

Nostalgic Interference

Nostalgia can be a good source of inspiration. As you might have noticed from the past few blogs, I have indeed been waxing nostalgic these days. When I’m blocked (creatively that is), I find that I drift back to very specific moments and things from my childhood. I tell myself that ‘m searching for inspiration – and sometimes this is true as those feelings can be raw and whole – but too often it just a way to avoid the hard work and focus of writing.

My favorite ice cream was called Checkerboard, vanilla and chocolate in the shape of…? Guesses anyone? That’s right, a checkerboard! (It’s not pictured above sadly.) I have vivid memories of eating this remarkable stuff at the kitchen table, my fat little legs sticking to the vinyl cushions. I remember the heat. I remember the window just open onto the neighbor’s driveway, the sound of their car coming in. I carved the edges of each square carefully, first vanilla and then chocolate – I always saved the best for last – going sharply down the line with the edge of my spoon, eating tiny bits, and then boldly, rashly gouging out a scoop and then carving and cleaning slowly again. I couldn’t be too meticulous though because the ice cream would melt. I hated that.

I bought a Whacky Watermelon Pull Toy at a school flea market when I was ten. I thought it was an amazing thing. I mean, it was a watermelon on wheels that flapped out slices like wings. It also made a crazy clicketing racket as it rolled along. It was only 50 cents. I would have paid a dollar. But when I got it home, I didn’t know what to do with it. It was boring pulling it around my room and I wasn’t allowed to drag it around the house. It was too loud! And so I took it around the block, all the way around the entire block. I suddenly had no idea what I was doing with this Whacky Watermelon, making such a racket behind me. I felt like a goof doing it. It clicked and clacked crazily. I passed two teenagers and a woman with a kid. I couldn’t make eye contact with any of them. What was I doing? I almost picked it up and carried it home, but decided that I needed to finish my odyssey. I don’t know why. And I did. And then I put it away and never played with it again.

My drawer was full of crazy kid crap from souvenir shops. I bought it all: magnets, buttons, stickers, plastic animals, giant erasers, bendy figure pencils…but the best thing was a frog on his lily pad made out of shells. (The picture above is close but lacks the color, lily pad and pipe cleaner arms.) I named the frog George, and I talked to him. He was patient. He listened to everything I had to say. George was always there…until his lily pad cracked and he got dumped.

My favorite cookies were Pantry ginger snaps. (Neither is that me eating them, nor are those the cookies.) They were discontinued 25 years ago, and there hasn’t been a cookie as good since. Time to get back to work.