The scene is certainly contrived. Tarkovsky recorded all of the sound separately and added it in post-production. Yet, there is a clear sense of the architecture of the frame. And this scene sets the tone for the film. Almost every shot in the film pans to the left or right, parallel with the frame. The sounds heard out of the frame help to expand the landscape and make it clear that we are looking through a frame, into a world. Personal references are abundant throughout; Tarkovsky suffered from nostalgia while in Italy, making his only film outside of Russia; the poetry in the film is his father’s; the dog wandering in and out of the scenes is his own. He was clear, however, that there was no symbolism in the film. Water is water. Fog is fog. Oil is oil. That said, the way in which each are used in the film, changes the way in which each are understood. As Domenico, the madman, explains, two drops of oil when added together make one (1=1+1). The atmospheric effect is not symbolic, but rather presents the fullness of the world consciously through the media of film. One is always more than one.
The discourse around atmosphere from the nineteenth to twentieth century ranges from stimmung to milieu and implies something more than the symbolic, to include issues of weather, mood, culture, situation, context, history, and setting. In film and fiction, architecture is a means to an end. In architecture, we propose the means to an end we have little control over. While not able to be intentional, atmosphere need not be symbolic but we may recognize the capacity of architecture to be situated in, and reveal, what was always present but not yet felt.