Wednesday, 4 August 2010

On the Trail of Tarkovsky

As I mentioned in my last post, I spent the last two weeks of July on holiday in Umbria. A two-week summer trip to Italy has been something of a family tradition for many years now, with 2010 marking our 14th trip.

In 2008 we stayed in a villa near Siena, and decided to take a trip back to Bagno Vignoni, the spa town where
Tarkovsky shot parts of Nostalghia, including the ending. We'd been before, years ago, but this was the first trip since I'd discovered Tarkovsky.

Me in Bagno Vignoni, 2008.

This year, my Dad, who is also a huge Tarkovsky fan, decided that we should continue the Tarkovsky trail and go and visit the tiny town of Monterchi, in order to see Piero della Francesca's Madonna del Parto, the fresco from the opening sequence of Nostalghia. Much to my Dad's chagrin, I've always hated Piero's work, but due to the Tarkovsky connection I was, for once, happy to go along and see one of his works. At least I'd get to walk around the church where Tarkovsky shot, so I thought. But then my Dad told me that the fresco is no longer in the church where it originated, but is instead installed in a museum, detached from everything except a clinical white room. Sigh.

But Dad was still keen to go and see the original church, so the day was not yet lost.

Arriving in Monterchi, though, something didn't feel right. Nothing looked familiar. We asked about access to the original church, and were told it would be locked. Frustrated, I gazed upon the fresco and sighed. There was no mystical revelation: Piero's still crap, and I didn't even get to see a Tarkovsky landmark.

Returning to the villa at the end of the day, there was still something about what we'd seen in Monterchi that made me wonder if, somewhere, there had been a mistake. Was this really where Tarkovsky had been?

I hit Google and stumbled across
this article by James Macgillivray. It seems my instinct was right. Apparently Tarkovsky used a replica of the fresco in Nostalghia, installed in a church some 120 kilometers from Monterchi! Who knew? (Well, James Macgillivray, obviously, but who else?).

So, a word to the wise for those seeking to follow the trail of Tarkovsky: avoid Monterchi. Tarkovsky did.

Piero della Francesca's Madonna del Parto