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5.0 out of 5 stars Pure Poetry In Film As Only Tarkovsky Could Do It, 8 Oct 2003
This review is from: Stalker [VHS] [1979] (VHS Tape)
A true masterpiece of cinema as directed by the late, great Andrei Tarkovsky, based on the Strugatsky brothers' classic 1972 sci-fi novel ROADSIDE PICNIC where enigmatic aliens have landed on Earth but left as quickly as they departed, leaving behind an enigmatic, highly dangerous place known as 'The Zone'. In many ways this film adaptation is different to the original style and setting of the novel but Tarkovsky than compensates by taking the vision of ROADSIDE PICNIC to even more extreme, mindbending heights in its depiction of a journey into a physically devastated twilight zone (no pun intended).
STALKER has the same style of direction as ROADSIDE PICNIC but there are numerous differences. Firstly, in the novel the 'stalker' does have a name (Redrick 'Red' Schuhart) and the environment that surrounds his life and that of The Zone is examined in detail. In the film, the stalker does not even have a name, he is simply referred to throughout the film as 'Stalker' (with the occasional referring to with nonsensical names like 'Chingachook', 'Big Snake' and 'Leather Stocking') and details surrounding his environment are virtually non-existent. Secondly, in the novel Red makes his forays into the Zone with the intention of scavaging the technological litter left there by the aliens, to sell on the black market. In the film, the Stalker takes a writer and professor (known as 'Writer' and 'Professor') on an unforgettable, hallucinatory journey into the Zone in search of a building known as 'The Room' which has the power to grant wishes to all those who enter it. Admittedly there is a similar kind of device in ROADSIDE PICNIC that grants wishes but this is a spherical object referred to as a Golden Ball, additionally the Golden Ball only becomes the object of focus towards the end of the novel. STALKER is concerned only with the quest to get to The Room. Thirdly, while both novel and film raise questions surrounding the meaning of human existence, there are differences of approach. Whereas Red, in the novel, seemed more concerned with questioning the meaning and worth of his own existence, the three characters in the film question life and philosophy in all aspects. Nothing is left unturned as all three characters discuss and dissect philosophy, concepts, art, science, lifestyles etc, in extreme detail. Fourthly, in the novel it is known that aliens had landed in the Zone and the Zone is discussed in detail with the hellish labyrinth of booby-traps that exist within it. In the film, no one really knows the origins of the Zone or whether aliens had even landed and disclosures of the Zone's secrets are kept to a minimum. The Zone is indeed secondary to that of the quest to reach The Room. Lastly (and perhaps most importantly) the sci-fi feel of the novel is obvious, in the film the sci-fi feel is conspicuously absent, to the point of non-existence, as it becomes instead an allegorical quest for redemption and salvation in a dislocated, nihilistic world.
STALKER is truly remarkable and stands out conspicuously as a landmark of cinematography. The breathtakingly beautiful use of color, sound, camera shots and lighting all combine to produce an an atmosphere of pure enigma in which the symbolic and philosophical conversion of the three characters takes on a new dimension, helped along by the eerie, electronic musical score from Eduard Artemyov. The images of the nearly totally devasted world that exists outside of the Zone reasonate with an apocalyptic beauty that predated the post-apocalyptic landscape of the landmark film BLADE RUNNER by three years and would indeed come true seven years later with the 1986 nuclear explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Poignantly, STALKER was indeed filmed partly in the immediate vicinity of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor and the reactor itself can clearly be seen in the beginning and ending shots of the film. The one image I shall never forget though is that of the dog that appears out of nowhere halfway through the film, to come and sit down by the Stalker as he rests. What is that supposed to signify? Is the dog the only living creature worthy of the Stalker's efforts?
Do not be put off by the philosophical conversations of the three characters and the slow pacing of the film. STALKER begs for close analysis of the human condition and is indeed more relevant than ever in the dehumanised, globalised world of today. View the film more than once and you will ultimately be rewarded.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 16 Apr 2008 12:57:42 BDT
Stalker says:
There is a passage in the script which refers to the old becoming strong but hard and unyielding and therefore they die. The small, the young, the innocent flex and yield and survive. The dog is the only character that Stalker saves so perhaps it has that necessary innocence. The others who are trapped in their faithless identities can't be helped by this "religious guide".

In reply to an earlier post on 28 Mar 2014 22:15:18 GMT
Tim says:
Oh look, can I join in please stalker? "the stinging nettles they brush by during the journey, represent the angst we all feel as we struggle through life's innocence, with those barbs that for a short time help us learn"

And there's more "the nuts tied with strips of bandage represent mankind shackled by wedding dresses, briefly we float in the air as religious guides, to be snapped at by faithless stray dogs"

or not.
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