Stalker (1979 Russia)

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Stalker (1979 Russia)

Post  BoG on Sun Oct 19, 2014 4:35 pm

Although considered a science fiction film, Stalker is really a philosophical film with slight sci-fi elements. It was based on "Roadside Picnic," the famous 1972 sci-fi novella by the Strugatsky brothers, but Tarkovsky downplayed all the sci-fi elements and emphasized the spiritual and philosophical ones. Viewers need to be in the mood for long stretches of silence, very slow pacing, and meandering conversations about the meaning of life. Most of the film depicts the Stalker (the guide) and his companions, known as Writer and Professor, over the wet misty wasteland known as The Zone, toward a room in an old house (or church?) that supposedly grants wishes to those who enter. The wasteland is sad and beautiful: old machines, train tracks, ruins, guns, tanks, and rubble, all of this overgrown with plants or immersed in water. Everything looks peaceful, but the Stalker insists there is danger everywhere, and they must step carefully, often in difficult or roundabout ways, to reach their destination safely. Much is left ambiguous at the conclusion.

Goldweber, David Elroy (2012-06-14). Claws & Saucers: Science Fiction, Horror, and Fantasy Film: A Complete Guide: 1902-1982 (Kindle Locations 66023-66033). David E. Goldweber. Kindle Edition.
MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD. I couldn't help feeling that Stalker was too long and slow. A silent three-minute "long take" makes a point. A silent six-minute long take turns irritating. But I found the film more unified and coherent than Solaris, and I cared more about the characters. By the halfway mark, I was drawn in. Everything felt symbolic, yet tantalizingly ambiguous. Water appears everywhere in the film, but water is associated with death (drowning) as well as life (birth). Wilderness can be bountiful but also dangerous. Industry can enhance our lives but also pollute them. The Stalker seems to lack faith, but he laments the loss of faith in others, and he guides those with faith through the Zone. Writer is jaded and cynical, yet he seeks to rekindle his motivation, to rejoin society rather than flee. Professor is skeptical and suspicious, yet ultimately peaceful and obedient, and perhaps the most sensitive of the trio.

Goldweber, David Elroy (2012-06-14). Claws & Saucers: Science Fiction, Horror, and Fantasy Film: A Complete Guide: 1902-1982 (Kindle Locations 66034-66045). David E. Goldweber. Kindle Edition.
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