Review

  • Warning: Spoilers
    My first Tarkovsky experience, and I'm overwhelmed by its imagery power. The film is pure joy, which, admittedly, requires some time and open mindness.

    'Stalker' begins when the camera navigates into a room as if we are entering an art gallery. In those images of introduction there is a strange tension between calm, peace, but also a threatening feeling of mysteriousness. It is a feeling which goes throughout the whole film, some sort of a basic flow or vibration which keep fantasy and thoughts of the viewer always busy. The picture of the three persons in the bed, the Stalker and his family, appears as a painting or a collage, showing primary luck and happiness but being now doomed to downfall. This extremely intense atmosphere is capturing and therefore very 'joyful' to watch and go through.

    I won't get into plot details. Just some things on the characters first: The three persons who enter the Zone are representing different kinds of human ideologies, coming along as a soul trip. We have the Stalker, the one who leads the other two into the forbidden area. He stands for individuality. He is an obsessive, a desperate who escapes his real life and believes he can only exist and unfold himself in the Zone. The writer, cynical and sarcastic, a quitter, embodies the nihilistic ideology of the civilization. The professor represents the scientific conscience.

    The Zone sometimes appears to be as not real, but maybe also shows the inner cosmos of the three men. Tarkowsky kind of abolishes the difference between inner and outer world by permanently switching from monologues to dialogues, from black/white to color, from close-ups to totals and the other way round.

    That's not it, not only a soul trip of three failed men (and in that respect of human conscience), but it's also the urge to get to the insight, the truth, the veracity of the damaging progressive human civilization. You see rotting industrial constructions and instruments, you see how the nature takes back what it has lost, captured in beautiful picture compositions (i.e. the fish in the river, surrounded by cans, a Christ figure, coins and oil).

    What makes the film quite intriguing is that it's not only an apocalyptic description, not only all negative. In the stunning imagery, especially the image of water, you see the miracle of life, something wonderful and esthetically very appealing.

    At the end, the wife of the Stalker asks him 'What would be life without harm?' A life without harm would be also a life without happiness and hope. She, who didn't want him to go, welcomes him again and brings him to bed.

    His daughter without legs (and that is the most powerful and enthralling shot I hardly have seen before in a film) sits at a table, we see her profile of the face, and she is silent. She looks at three cups, moves them with the power of telekinesis, one falls on the floor and breaks into pieces. Is that the will of God? The power of free will? The influence of the Zone? Do the three glasses represent the traveling men? Maybe this picture alone is the expression of the mystery of life, the question on how we effectuate, what we cause and what we shall effectuate in this world and in it's nature. Maybe it is the question on the ranking of love and passion when Stalker's wife doubts a life without harm and happiness and hope. Maybe Tarkowsky hits on his own society in the communist totalitarian Soviet Union. Maybe the film goes beyond that and doubts other promises of fortune of other societies. Maybe. Certainly.