Stalker – Andrei Tarkovsky – (1979)

Writing about a film such as Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker is not an easy task.  Anyone with a pure and honest love for cinema will find Tarkovsky’s work in general to be awe inspiring, perhaps even approaching cinematic perfection.

Stalker is something so ambitious in its message and graceful with its visuals, watching another film after it can be extremely trying, yet simply waxing lyrical about it wouldn’t do it justice either.  There are no mere words to describe experiencing Stalker.  Even in past reviews where it has been stated that a film is one of the best, Stalker defies even those sweeping statements.  When film is in such perfect circle of business, box office, money and celebrity, it’s refreshing to simply let a piece of art flow over you.  Stalker is the perfect film to get lost in and the perfect reflection by which one can judge the world and find the cracks in the mirror.

The narrative finds us in a cold, totalitarian world, maybe even a police state somewhere in the cyber-punk future.  It is even in this mere diversion that Tarkovsky’s brilliance shines through with him resisting the obvious urge to make the film look like a Science Fiction piece such as Blade Runner or 1984.  A writer and a scientist seek out a stalker; a man who knows the secret ways of an area known only as The Zone.  The Zone protects itself from outsiders and is banned from being visited by the state as, hidden within its decaying walls and fields of long grass, there exists a room where the wishes of anyone can be made a reality.

Making use of colour, sepia print and black and white film, Tarkovsky builds a world not unlike a dreamscape, exhibiting some of the most startling and gorgeous visuals ever presented.  The dangers of The Zone are a particularly stunning feat, with it never being truly presented to the characters, instead showcasing a metaphorical danger hinting again at the potential of it being a mere dream.  An oncoming wind approaches the writer as he takes the wrong way in The Zone.  His fear tells the viewer that he’s in danger rather than a typical Indiana Jones type saw swing.

This metaphorical idealism is established most strongly in the now famous, Room of Dust scene where the writer is presented with eternity in the form of crumbling dust.  The pipe he is temporarily encased in is deep, yet he’s forgiven by The Zone which is shown through the flight of an eagle.  The moral and philosophical questions rise to a climax as they find the room.  Is it right to have such power?  Power ironically mirrored in the police state the character inhabit and also of Russia from Tarkovsky’s time.  The scientist intends to blow up The Zone while the writer fights with the stalker, arguing that he’s addicted to knowing and sharing in The Zone’s power itself.  Perhaps it was this strong political message that made the film such a success but there’s no doubt that the Russian government were also taking note with Tarkovsky eventually to leave the Soviet Union for good a few years later.

Stalker is available as a single release from Artificial Eye but the best way to experience Tarkovsky in general is to get their box set of all his films.  The print is excellent and taking into account the other extras on othe discs, it’s probably the best director based box set available on the whole DVD market.

Perhaps it’s the modern glut of cash films that makes this intelligent piece of art so refreshing but there’s simply more to it than that.  Tarkovsky is a director with an agenda more in line with Nietzsche and Kant than Hitchcock and Renoir.  This philosophical edge is something explored in the works of Bergman, yet here in Tarkovsky’s small number of films we have 8 meditations on life that seem as indispensable asThe Birth of Tragedy.  This not only seems revolutionary and beautiful but also sadly finite and almost impossible to conceive in a multiplex age

Adam Scovell

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