“ Genre: Horror / Theatrical Release: 1979 / Director: Andrei Tarkovsky / Actors: Aleksandr Kajdanovsky, Alisa Frejndlikh ... / DVD released 22 April, 2002 at Artificial Eye / Features of the DVD: Black & White, Colour, Full Screen, PAL „
* Prices may differ from that shown
Synopsis: A Zone appears out of the blue without explanation, though feared for its supernatural and earth defying powers three men go inside to discover themselves and enter a room which grants your true wish.
Anybody who has seen a Tarkovsky film, or even all of them, will know that at times they can be pretty hard going - they are un-relentless, powerful, patient and at times overwhelmingly poetic. It's no wonder that his films obviously don't appeal to all audiences, probably because for one, half the time he is either quoting texts of great lyrical ambiguity and two the other half you don't know what the hell is going on. To me though Stalker is probably one of his easier works and definitely his greatest, the plot is so designed that Michael Bay could cut out the dialogue add in some action and explosions give Will Smith a role and still maintain the premise. Because at the heart of this film it really is an action/adventure film, though Tarkovsky himself declared that his real intentions (much like with his other works) was to create a film that defied genres and a film that could not be labeled. Of course as it is a Tarkovsky you know there is going to be a lot more going on then just action and adventure, the film taps into realms of conscience thought and provokes emotions about questions that are essential to everyday life. This use of challenging debate is one that makes the audience themselves think about the questions of life - there are some beautiful depictions of these queries that again i don't truly understand - by you don't need to understand everything to appreciate its beauty and glory.
If i am honest upon first viewing i didn't really like this film as much as i do today, no doubt if i hadn't of watched it Solaris or Andrei Rublev would be taking its place here. On a re-vist to this film though i discovered its true beauty, i didn't find myself becoming frustrated with the lost potential of the Zone or the amount of complicated conversing the characters did. Instead i allowed myself to be bathed by the imagery, music and colours that fill this film - such as the scene where they choose the rest in the shallow puddles of the muggy zone and argue over different matters effecting the human race and societies downfall, Tarkovsky films this with close ups and long shots allowing us to see their isolation in their situation as well as in themselves, the low fog covers their bodies as they lay in the fetal position with their almost guardian protectors, the dogs, circling and observing them - to me this is cinema of the highest order and just examples of how the beauty and grammar of cinema has been almost totally lost in today's mainstream industry.
It would be hard to write a review of Stalker and not include a section on the Zone itself, which i must say is a brilliant creation interpretated from Arkadi and Boris Strugatsky's book The Roadside Picnic. The Zone is a place of obvious mystery and threatening magic, a place where you can not go unless you know the way, a place where one wrong step can leave you double-backing on yourself for eternity or having the environment swallow you whole. Visually it is stunning to look at, a dense landscape of damp green overgrown fields and swamp like foilage filled with rubble and lost artifacts of human interference and failure. As you get close to the mythical 'room' the Zone becomes more industrial and man made rather than natural - the damp muggy fields are replaced with hard brick, barren tunnels and buildings without a builder or an inhabitant these structures seem to be the image of modern society and its isolation from nature. The 'room' itself is particularly impressive, an ancient looking catacomb with the floor of a desert dune, where the little light that is let in bounces of in little mound on the floor like the curves of a woman's body. The whole scenery is just eye candy as with other Tarkovsky films such as Rublev, Mirror and Nostalgia, he knows exactly how to let the light reflect of natural resources and to watch is to be in the presence of a master of cinema.
Tarkovsky's films may be hard work at times but ultimately they are some of the most rewarding works in film history, he opens up realms of imagination and thought that only need a little provoking but are places you couldn't dream of going without the visual and musical aid of one of Russia's greatest directors.
'Stalker' is, along with Tarkovsky's other most famous film 'Solaris', one of my favourite films. The excellent re-release of most of Tarkovsky's more important features by Artifical Eye on DVD has offered them to a new generation of audiences.
'Stalker' is, briefly, the story of three men who break into a heavily fotified region of an unnamed country that has been forcibly evacuated due to a similarly unnamed contamination.
Alexander Kaidanovsky plays the title role, a mysterious and emotional ex-military man who supports his family with the money from dangerous sorties leading clients into the zone. In this instance he is take two men known only as the Writer (Anatoli Solonitsyn) and the Scientist (Nikolai Grinko), each of whom gradually reveals their motivations for wanting to enter the zone. The Stalker leads them (at a typically Tarkovsky pace) into the heart of the zone, to a room that is fabled to have magical powers.
In much the same manner as Tarkovsky's earlier film 'Solaris', 'Stalker' is often mistaken for science fiction. It is not - it is a thought provoking and extremely subtle analysis of the human condition, both in isolation and in relation to the belief of a greater or unknown power or faith. For Tarkovsky there is no difficulty at all building a film on this indeterminate ground, and that genre-defying film making is largely what has contributed to Tarkovsky's fame.
The film is quite beautiful; I remain confused about the origin of the default soundtrack which appears to be much more modern that it is credited to be (it is so inventive and bizarre that it even inspired an ambient electronic album by the musicians B. Lustmord & Robert Rich). The plot is ideal for Tarkovsky; it is moderately paced and magically shot.
There exists a certain amount of myth about the film, largely because the concept of an evacuated and contaminated zone on Soviet territory instantly suggests the later disaster at Chernobyl. Some sources suggest that Tarkovsky was in fact alluding to much earlier nuclear accident at Mayak in 1957. The film was also deeply problematic to produce: a year's worth of material filmed on location in Estonia was lost due to Soviet processing staff mishandling the then new and unknown imported Kodak film stock, and Tarkovsksy was only able to save the production by re-negotiating with film studio heads for time and money to film a second part to the movie, which became the film we see today. The severe pollution from the chemical and power plants seen in the film are also blamed for causing severe bad health amongst the cast and crew. It is not unreasonable to suspect that the cancer that was ultimately to claim Tarkovsky's life could have been initiated and nurtured by these conditions.
Stalker remains a mythical film for many cinephiles: for years it was an obscure masterpiece, created in an environment that was extremely unfavourable towards experimental cinema. Its release on DVD allows many new viewers to discover Tarkovsky's brilliance, and to re-interpret the story for themselves.
* Actors: Aleksandr Kaidanovsky, Alisa Frejndlikh, Anatoli Solonitsyn, Nikolai Grinko, Natasha Abramova
* Directors: Andrei Tarkovsky
* Writers: Andrei Tarkovsky, Arkadi Strugatsky, Boris Strugatsky
* Producers: Aleksandra Demidova, Willie Geller
* Format: Black & White, Colour, Full Screen, PAL
* Language Russian
* Subtitles: Cantonese Chinese, Dutch, English, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, Russian
* Region: Region 2 ( DVD formats.)
* Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
* Number of discs: 2
* Classification: PG
* Studio: Artificial Eye
* DVD Release Date: 22 April 2002
* Run Time: 155 minutes
I waited a long time to see this film. I know it was shown on channel 4 in the mid 1980s but I didn't catch it. I waited and waited in vain for it be shown again. The film came up in a conversation I had with a friend in Poland. We were talking about the Chernobyl nuclear disaster (1986), the radioactive fall out had affected the country a few years previously. This film was mentioned in relation to the subject since the Chernobyl disaster closely followed the release of the film which his hailed by many as a prophetic vision of ecological catastrophe. I had seen a few of Tarkovsky's films but not this one and my friend recommended it as a 'must see'. Finally last year I found the VHS tape in my local library. It is certainly one of my favourite films, probably my top film of last year.
The filming of 'Stalker' started in February 1977 and was completed in 1979. It premiered in May 1979 in Moscow. The film was shown on what was then West German television, thanks partly to German finance towards the production. It was interestingly Tarkovsky's first film for which no significant editing was requested by the Soviet authorities.
Filmed in Tallinn, Estonia, the story is based on the novel 'Picnic by the Roadside' by Arkadi Strugatsky and Boris Strugatsky. It is set is an anonymous country in the not too distant post apocalyptic future. The authorities believe that some kind of meteorite has fallen from the sky, and its impact has created a mysterious area known as the Zone. People are generally forbidden to go their because those that do often fail to return. Within the zone itself there is an even more mysterious room. The room is said to provide the answers to all humanity's deepest desires but it also possesses untold dangers:
As the Stalker says in the film. "The Zone is a very complex maze of traps - death traps. I don't know what happens in the absence of humans but when humans appear everything appears to move; former traps disappear, new traps appear. Safe ways become impassable, the way might at first be easy and then confused beyond words...".
About the room within the Zone he goes on to say, "It might seem capricious but at each moment it's just how we've made it with our state of mind. I won't hide the fact that some people had to run back half way. Some persisted on to the very threshold of the room. Everything that happens here depends not on the Zone but on us".
Only a 'Stalker' can enter the Zone. He or she must lead 'the wretched' to put up their will and longing against the cryptic treacheries of the Zone. The Stalker is played by Alexander Kaidanovsky and the film follows his attempt to lead two outsiders to the zone; these two characters are simply known as the Writer (Anatoli Solonitsyn) and the Scientist (Nikolai Grinko).
About the people who wish to enter the Zone the Stalker remarks, "...it seems to let through those who have lost all hope; not the good or the bad but the wretched. But even the most wretched will perish if they don't know how to behave here. Nobody returns the same way they entered". The three main characters then endure a difficult journey through the fractured logic of the Zone. As they confront military police guards and deal with invisible traps their paranoia about the Zone and about each other increases.
If you're looking for fast paced drama with special effects then you won't find it here. The pace is at times slow and there are long sequences where nothing seems to happen but these are effectively deployed and add to the film's suspense. Tarkovsky often had to rely on low budgets for his films but this in my view has only made his creative cinematographic powers come to the fore. As in his other films (Mirror, Solaris) he combines colour, sepia and black and white scenes to good effect. The wretched conditions of a heavily industrialized world are beautifully contrasted with the abandoned countryside surrounding the zone. By blending visual, narrative, and cinematic conventions Tarkovsky once again conjures up scenes of pure magic that alone make the film worth watching. The poetry that is recited in the film was written by F.I. Tiutchev and, as in 'Mirror', Arseny Tarkovsky (Tarkovsky's father).
Tarkovsky has been quoted as saying that the film is "...about the existence of God in man and about the death of spirituality as a result of our possessing false knowledge". It might be said that Tarkovsky manifests a universe in which humanity is filled with a desperate longing to escape the overwhelming anxiety that arises as we attempt to hold on to human values and faith in a world of scientific rationalism and technological progress. In doing so he creates a physical and metaphysical drama that fully engages the viewer.
Starring: A. Kaidanovsky, Alissa Freindlich, Anatoli Solonitsyn, Nikolai Grinko
Director: Andrei Tarkovsky
Genre: Feature Film
Sub Genre: Drama
Running time: 155 minutes
Available on VHS at £13.99 and on DVD at £19.54 from Tesco.com
Whilst perusing the DVD section of HMV on Oxford Circus, I came across the World Cinema section. Noticing it was also a sale section with really cheap foreign titles, I scoured through the lot, mainly on the hunt for Japanese films. Instead, I came across "Stalker", I had a look at it, the cover of the case, depicting a man laying in shallow waters intrigued me. "Hello, what's all this about?" Turned it over and had a read, sounded even more interesting. But, alas, I only had enough money to get home. So I put it back. But the seeds had been planted, I became incredibly desperate to see it, couldn't find it in my town, after a week and a half, it arrived through my letter box. I shoved it straight on! Based on the novel "Roadside Picnic", about extra-terrestrials creating special zones, by Arkady and Boris Sturgatsky, Andrei Tarkovsky takes it, adapts it and makes it his own. "Realising his visions", and how. A cinematic genius, I really admire his work. Stalker is an enigma, you never really know a whole lot of what's going on, but that's one it's charms. The time period is confusing, I'm still not sure if it was set years after it's release date of 1979, before then or in the present. There isn't ever any indication anyway, it seems like it's set in a poor area, so technology is lacking as it is. It doesn't really matter though, not particularly important. Anyway, it seems to be set in a Russian town, a neglected area that seems poverty stricken. There, two men meet up, a self-pitying writer and a disheartened scientist. They employ the services of the "Stalker", a mysterious fellow who is the only one who can traverse and navigate "The Zone". This is where things are confusing still. The Zone is an area of land, surrounded by cordons and police barricades. Nobody really knew what happened to it, coul
d of been a meteorite that struck the land, others believed Aliens had something to do with it. Whatever happened, people don't usually come back from "The Zone". Hence the ultimate fear and blocking off of it. The rumour going around is that at the heart of the zone is a place. A place where you're innermost desires and wishes will come true, but only for those who are brave enough to make the journey, to "The Room". The film follows the 3 characters journey through "The Zone", facing dangers, lamenting, remembering and coming to terms with their lives. It's very profound and draws up several psychological issues, existence, it's very intelligent. There are no special effects as such, it was a low budget movie, but they make use of natural lighting, location and sound to produce such a heavy atmosphere that draws you, gets you feeling anxious and nervous. Takes a very special movie to do that! Throughout most of the film, I always got the sense of foreboding, something following them? Are they being watched? What lies around the next corner? Why is the Stalker so petrified? He's supposed to know his way around "The Zone".... I don't want to give away the ending, but it's satisfying and had me bug-eyed with confusion and amazement. Be warned though, it lasts over 2 and a half hours and goes at a snails pace, but I was wide awake for the whole duration, thats how much it grabs you! It's all totally human though, the fear, the thought, the emotion, there aren't any heroes, no huge stunts, gore or anything, it's artistic, poetic and enlightening. Really enjoyed the experience of watching this film. The camera work is second to none, the shots are all artistic, take a still and it could be portrait-esque, fantastically shot. The film itself is both black and white (well Sepia) and colour, switching between the two at key points during the mo <
br>vie at various points, I was a bit sceptical at this fact at first, but when you see it, it really works and actually adds to films disposition. The whole package comes as a 2 disc set, the first hour of the movie is on the first disc, whilst the last part is on the second disc. This is a bit annoying, I'm sure they could of put The film is presented in both 5.1 and the original mono Russian dialogue, with subtitles. The publisher, Artificial Eye has gone all out with a whole huge amount of different languages. The extras include a stills gallery, featuring behind the scenes shots, biographies, interviews with crew members and extracts from Tarkovskys diploma film "The Steamroller and the Violin", which makes for an interesting viewing. While the film was fairly different from what I had expected, it didn't douse my enjoyment of Stalker, not one bit of it.
I debated waiting for the DVD category to appear for this but, as I've said quite a bit about the film, I thought it was just as appropriate to pop it here. The DVD review is at the bottom. Director Andrei Tarkovsky Writer Arkady Strugatsky, Boris Strugatsky Stars Aleksandr Kajdanovsky, Alisa Fredndlikh, Anatoly Solonitsin, Nikolai Grinko, Natasha Abramova Certificate PG Running time 155 minutes Made Russia 1979 In the movie world, where sci-fi equates to hi-tech space operas, like Star Wars, or gothic excess, such as The Matrix, it is good to be reminded that there is more to the genre than flashing light sabres and cool sunglasses. Tarkovsky's Stalker is a film which makes you rethink your perceptions and encourages you to ponder deeper questions of humanity. The eponymous Stalker makes his living by leading people into a mysterious Zone, much to the chagrin of his long-suffering wife. Thought to have been created by a meteroite or, possibly, an alien species, the Zone is fiercely protected by the government, that doesn't want anyone going there, themselves included. Yet, within the Zone, is a room with the power to grant the deepest wish of those who dare to seek it out and enter in. The promise of fulfilment of earthly desire is enough to make a professor (Nikolai Grinko) and a writer (Anatoly Solonitsin) prepare to brave bullets to reach it and we follow their journey as they embark on one of the most thought-provoking road trips ever commited to celluloid. Getting out of the city proves difficult enough, but when they reach the Zone it seems that the going will not get any easier. We travel with them as they debate the nature of desire and dreams in the physically daunting Zone. Considering that there is little in the way of action in this film and that it moves in a slow and epic manner, it is surprisingly tense. The initial scenes in the industrial wastelands
of the city are shot in bleak sepia, giving way to the vibrant colour and greenery in the Zone - one thing's for certain, as they step off their hijacked train wagon, they're not in Kansas any more. The Zone is an oppressive force in its own right, bearing witness to people who have ventured into its confines in the past and never returned, hostile to all but those who treat it with care and reverence. The question is, will our intrepid trio make it through the wilderness and what will they do in the room, if they reach it? There is no easy watching to be gained here, but nor is this a hard slog - each scene is beautifully crafted, painting a vivid and fascinating picture of Tarkovsky's vision. Once you adjust to the pace and frequent long gaps between dialogue, you begin to welcome the pauses so that you can ponder on the questions facing the protagonists at the same time as they do or, if that all gets too much, simply sit back and let the resonant score wash over you - though the version you are listening to (the 5.1 or original mono) will occasionally alter what you hear, more of which later. The acting is superb throughout, with the enigmatic Stalker paradoxically evangelising the wonders of the Zone while carrying the weight of his own disabled daughter on his shoulders and yet showing no interest in entering the room himself. This internal conflict provides the perfect counterpoint to the analytical and mysterious professor and the self-obsessed alcoholic writer as they find that it is not just the threat of the Zone they must worry about, but the demons they carry within themselves. There is much that one could make of the symbolism - does it represent a supernatural force, a landscape of the mind or a bizarre parable of the West, where hopes and dreams become reality? The answer, I think, is none of these... and yet all of them, and that is the beauty of the film. Tarkovsky is adamant that h
is au dience should think about what they are watching and therefore shies away from neatness and resists the urge to lead his viewers by the hand. I suspect that you could watch Stalker a dozen times and get something different from it on each occasion. What more can you ask of a filmmaker? --DVDetails-- Ratio Fullscreen 4:3 Sound Original mono and Dolby Digital 5.1 Extras Scene selection; Stills Gallery; Cast and crew biographies and filmographies; Interviews with director of photography, A Knyazhinsky, and production designer, R Safiullin; Extract from Tarkovsky's diploma film, The Steamroller And The Violin. Artificial Eye's presentation of Stalker is a bit higgledy piggledy, with the extras scattered across two discs. Perhaps the best way to describe them is "before" and "after". On the first, we are presented with the first part of the film along with an excerpt from Tarkovsky's diploma offering, The Steamroller And The Violin, Tarkovsky's biography, a Tarkovsy-esque meander through the house he lived in as a child and in-production shots, leaving the post-production interviews and other cast and crew biographies for the second disc. Aside from the slight quirk of positioning, the presentation is excellent. The animated menus are engaging and easy to navigate, with a good size of print which doesn't leave you squinting around to find the subtitle menu. The colour and clarity is excellent for a film of its age, with no obvious scratching. The sepia portion is richly coloured and the colour sequences also well realised. The sound is available in the original mono and in Russian 5.1. Beware, these two representations are distinctly different in places. Perhaps most notable is on the train trip into the Zone, where the original version relies on the rhythmic "music" of the train, travelling over the tracks, to carry the viewer, whi
le the 5.1 version overlays some of Artemyev's ambient music. Occasionally the music in the 5.1 version seems overly loud and once or twice the sound is "cleaned up", losing some of Tarkovsky's original intention. The 5.1 version, I suspect, equates more closely to Artemyev's vision than that of Tarkovsky. As regards the extras, they are few but enjoyable. The excerpt from his diploma film demonstrates how good Tarkovsky was, right from the outset of his career, and it is only a shame that there isn't more than the few minutes we get to see. With luck, Artificial Eye will release the full version at some point. Tarkovsky's House is, in fact, a short film, entitled Memory, which intercuts sequences from Stalker's dream with Tarkovsky's derelict boyhood home. Shot in the style of the director himself, this is a poignant and thought-provoking sequence in its own right. There are just 10 production photographs here, with only one shot in colour. The most interesting - and most sad - extras are the interviews with director of photography Knyazhinsky and production designer Saifiullin. The former, filmed in a care home, seems overcome with melancholy at the thought that so many of the cast and crew, who worked on the film, have since passed away - he, too, died not long after. His brief interview - at around five minutes in length - offers an insight into the area of Estonia, where most of the Zone shooting occured, explaining that much of the standing water used on the sets was present already and discussing how they used this to their advantage, but it is disturbing to watch somone who is so ill talk about things that he misses. Saifullin's interview is much meatier, as he talks about the devastating loss of the first half of the film after negatives were spoiled a year into the shoot. He also reminisces about Tarkovsky's eye for detail - "He wanted to know the motivation of
every flower&qu ot; - and discusses his belief that elements of the Stalker character were based on himself. The only downside is that occasionally the subtitles slip into pidgen English, not so much that you lose the thread, though. The cast and crew biographies are in a sensible typeface, so that you can read them from across the room - other DVD manufacturers please take note. Watch out, while you are reading them for Artemyev's, which contains a not-so-hidden feature of a 21 minute interview. Why Artificial Eye hasn't just packaged this to appear alongside the other interviews is beyond me, as it is a fascinating insight into the way that Tarkovsky viewed the scoring of his films. He was keen to use as little music as possible and had Artemyev reading dissertations before composing in order to achieve the right ambience for certain scenes. Also, squirrelled away in Artemyev's filmography, is a teaser for Solaris. Overall, the DVD extras have been chosen well and genuinely add to the viewer's understanding of the film, without seeming contrived. It is just a shame that some of them are so hard to find.
Tarkovsky's films have a reputation for being slow and impenetrable, but his two 'science fiction' films - the other is 'Solaris', from the Stanislav Lem novel - are relatively accessible, partly through being located in a specific genre. While 'Solaris' uses the traditional visual trappings of SF - the characters are in a spaceship, orbiting a mysterious planet - the only genre pointers in 'Stalker' are given in the dialogue. This trick, familiar to anyone who has sat through terminally low-budget SF films (a dead breed, perhaps thankfully, by all accounts) actually works here, against all the odds. It makes for a fascinating exercise in defining space and time through language; far more convincing than any number of dodgy spacesuits and jerrymandered rayguns. Not that the latter would have any place here in any case - this is about as far from 'space opera' as it gets, and is more about spiritual development than any more mundane concerns. The metaphorical use of a physical journey to represent the spiritual dates back to 'The Pilgrim's Progress' and beyond, but its effectiveness here puts it on a par with life-changers like Herzog's 'Aguirre - the Wrath of God' and early Jodorowsky films like 'El Topo' and 'The Magic Mountain' to my mind. The plot: the Zone is suspected to have been caused by a meteorite crash, but nobody is quite sure. Whatever the provenance, the authorities view it with strong suspicion, and have surrounded it with troops and barbed wire. Stalkers however exist, who make a living taking interested parties into the Zone. Why visit? Inside the Zone is the Room, entry into which will make the visitor's most secret desire come true. The film charts one Stalker's journey into the Zone; his companions on this trip are the Writer and the Professor - known thus presumably to protect their true identities, but also with obvious metaph
orical implications, to which we'll return later. The Stalker, Writer and Professor, on their journey into the Zone, discuss the nature of desire and the history of the area; the Stalker reveals that his forebear, Porcupine, had returned from a trip to the Zone during which his brother had died. He had become extremely rich upon his return, but had shortly afterwards killed himself. The Stalker here has never entered the room. Porcupine's brother had died in one of the many traps in the Zone. The central purpose of a Stalker is to guide visitors through the traps; safe passages shift and mutate, so that people can never be quite sure which route to take. One passage leading to the Room, known as the 'meat grinder', is particularly dangerous. Space, moreover, does not operate within the Zone as it does outside: the quickest way to get from A to B is not in a straight line, but rather by a circuitous route. Some of the characters once loop back on themselves in a physically impossible manner. SPOILER The characters finally arrive at the Room. It transpires that the Professor has a bomb with which he plans to destroy the Room. He fears that a psychopath could visit, and that the idea of his or her most secret desires being realised is too dangerous to countenance. The Stalker attempts to stop him from activating the bomb, but is stopped by the Writer; the latter points out that learning the nature of one's most secret desire can be a terrible thing. He posits that Porcupine would have entered the Room subsequent to his brother's death and wanted, consciously at least, nothing more than for his brother to be resurrected. The fact that his actual desire is to be rich brings about a guilt too big to live with, hence his suicide. The Writer has no wish, having realised this, to enter the room; the Professor decides that destroying the Room is a redundant act. The characters return to the outside world, although it's un
clear whether any of them has in fact entered the room. A dog encountered in the Zone - and featuring in the Stalker's dreams throughout - has followed them out. The Stalker goes home with his wife and crippled child, followed by the dog. It transpires, in the final scenes, that the child has telekinetic powers. SPOILER OVER I remember once reading of Tarkovsky that his films 'make me feel more intelligent than I am but less intelligent than I should be', which is an interesting way to see them. The scope of possible interpretation of any of his films is vast, although 'Stalker' is perhaps more determined than some of the others. The Stalker can be seen to represent blind faith, the Writer jaded art and the Professor amoral science; all aspects of humanity, rather than individual characters themselves. The message, as I see it, is two-fold; firstly an expression of the phrase 'be careful what you wish for - it may just come true', and also a recognition of the necessarily bi-polar nature of human experience. Happiness depends, in a sense, on suffering - pure happiness, as pointed to by the Room, is both an impossibility in practical terms, as indicated by the Writer, and also in logical terms: pure happiness is no happiness at all. The scenes in the outside world are in sepia-tinted black and white, while those in the Zone are in colour. Interestingly, the final scenes, from the POV of the Stalker's daughter, are also in colour. We might have expected the Stalker to enter the room hoping for his daughter's disability to be lifted. But her life is far more rich as it is than that of any of the other characters, as pointed to by her colour POV and strange powers. On the surface we might see the disability only as a negative feature - Tarkovsky shows the truth to be far from surface appearances. But an entirely determined analysis of the film won't wash - it acts more as a mirror to the viewer
's own concerns and desires than being a polemic in any way. Hints that the Zone relates to prayer and the characters to Christ will for some viewers be the most important part of the content, while for me they are only a single facet. 'Stalker' will seem incredibly slow to anyone used to Hollywood films. The pace however sets up a spaciousness allowing the interplay of ideas to a degree you'll never see in a mainstream film, and as a whole it's profoundly satisfying. The film-making itself is moreover of an exceptional level. The b/w photography is truly beautiful, its crisp and painterly quality reminding me of the work of fellow Russian filmmaker Sergei Babalanov ('Of Freaks and Men'). A good deal of the footage, as with any Tarkovsky film, belongs to no one character's POV - the precision of the long tracking shots over water and detritus recalls the attention to detail and quality of light of the Brothers Quay. The soundtrack is also noteworthy - I saw this film first as a 14 year-old and remembered the way the sound of the train mutated into a dubby percussive clang; it still sounds great today, avant electronica which never interferes with the feel of the film at all. If you're interested in seeing this film it's well worth seeking out a cinema screening. Video isn't the medium for it, although DVD with a widescreen TV could work. Tarkovsky's films are screened periodically at repertory cinemas around the country - I saw this in London's Riverside, one of my favourite cinemas. Be prepared to sink into the film and to work with it - it'll bring ample reward to the adventurous film fan.
Andrei Tarkovsky. Based on the novel 'Roadside Picnic' which centres around a number of zones created by visiting extra-terrestrials. These zones hold special powers; they can grant wishes or set traps. Russian dialogue with subtitles.