Wednesday, April 15, 2015

645. STALKER (1979)

Running Time: 163 minutes
Directed By: Andrei Tarkovsky
Written By: Arkadi Strugatsky, Boris Strugatsky, from the novel The Roadside Picnic by Arkadi and Boris Strugatsky
Main Cast: Alexander Kaidanovsky, Anatoli Solonitsyn, Nikolai Grinko, Alisa Friendlich
Click here to view the trailer


Finally we made it! It was only four films, but I'll say it was four of the most challenging films that I've had to get through. Not only were they boring, but they also came with the pressure of having Tarkovsky's name attached to them and thus, I REALLY wanted to like them - at least one of them.

Stalker is nearly three hours and starts out as a black & white film, a man getting out of his bed while his wife and daughter go on sleeping, preparing for what seems like a day of work. This man is identified only as the Stalker and is going to meet a man, identified only as the Writer. The Stalker's purpose is to navigate people into The Zone, a paranormal place where there exists a room, a room that will make the hopes & dreams of anyone who enters come true. The Writer has requested to be taken into the Zone and brings along with him a second man, the Professor. The three meet in a bar, despite warnings from the Stalker's wife not to go, as it's very dangerous. You see, the Zone is guarded by a police force who are put in place to prevent trespassers into the Zone. Basically the whole movie is the three men's journey into the Zone, past the guards, through a wooded area and eventually down, what looks like a sewer drain and eventually into the Zone. Along the way, the film is filled with reflection from the characters, as well as philosophical thoughts and questions, arguments between the men and curiosity about what exists in "the room".


So I watched this film in three sittings and I want to take you through my thoughts during each sitting. I started the film on Sunday afternoon, following my writing of the Chinatown review. I went in expecting to dislike it, especially after my low opinion of The Mirror, but I'd seen stills that looked glorious and have heard great things, so I was hopeful. I made it through about forty five minutes before having to stop to go pick up my wife and I was bored out of my skull. Not a lot was happening and the dialogue was really hard to get into. A whole monologue by the Writer about how he doesn't believe in the paranormal comes to mind as a particularly mind numbing piece. Anyway, Sunday night rolls around, my wife hits the hay and I decide to fire the movie back up and manage to take down about another hour and it was during this hour that I actually started to, kind of like the movie. I wasn't in love with it or anything, but my curiosities started to grow about what we'd find at the end of this journey. What would the Zone be like? What would "the room" be like? How would Tarkovsky film this place that has been built up intensely? Speaking of the camera, I hated how we were kept at such a distance. There were times that we were so far away from the actors, that I couldn't tell who was talking and trying to piece together a conversation was a bit difficult, at times. Anyway, I got too tired on Sunday night, so I tapped out, opting to finish the film the next day when I was wide awake. Fast forward to Tuesday morning, when I finally got around to finishing the film and man what a huge letdown. They don't even go into the room!? What a ripoff! The filming of the Zone was pretty cool though, with those mini mountains of, what looked like sand and the seasick looking color of the whole screen, making the whole thing feel definitely otherworldly.

I have a feeling this is one that not a lot of people liked on first viewing. Hey, I hated 2001: A Space Odyssey the first time I saw it, but I persisted, seeing it a few more times and when I watched it most recently for THE BOOK, I actually liked it a lot. I feel like a few more viewings of that film will have it near the top of my favorite films list and I feel like this movie is along the same lines. I could see myself liking this. Hell, unlike Andrei Rublev and The Mirror, there's actually some serious plot development going on here, as opposed to Tarkovsky's usual reminiscing style, his pondering attitude. It's three men traveling from point A to point B on a long journey. It's The Wizard of Oz and The Lord of the Rings, except it's nothing like those, because it's Tarkovsky and love him or hate him (I'm closer to the latter), you must admit he has a style all his own and no one is ever going to duplicate his style. I also don't think anyone is ever going to 100% understand or decipher his pictures, because I think in order to do that, you'd have to exist inside his head. I feel like his movies are the most personal movies I've ever seen. Not only is he making movies he wants to watch, but he's making movies injected and marinated in his own thoughts, his own opinions, his own observations, his own theories. Stalker has a ton of dialogue that lost me or left me scratching my head and I feel like that was maybe the intended reaction, to get me thinking, to get me scratching. I'm babbling now, so I'll quit.

RATING: 5/10  I'll cut it right down the middle and say that I really need to probably see this one again, maybe in about ten years. Sorry Tarkovsky fans, but I'm glad I'm done with him. The Sacrifice is streaming on Netflix and being an Erland Josephson fan, I wanted to check it out, but now I don't know.


April 15, 2015  9:14am


  1. Yes....
    Unfortunatly I'm still feeling pretty much the same.
    For someone who likes to think he likes slow, deep and meaningful hurts to admit I'm still not finding the way into Tarkovsky.
    Shame.. i really feel like I'm missing something .. and it's all my fault.

    1. I'll take partial responsibility, but also admit that he seems to be an acquired taste and something I'll gladly not partake on anymore. Except The Sacrifice still looks pretty tempting and it's on my Netflix queue waiting. I may never get around to it, but it's there.

  2. Oh dear.. I've seen 'Sacrifice' .. and fairly recently too.. and I'm not sure I can remember it from the others, I remember it being (to me) rather dull and felt like Berman 'religious phase' rip off. But perhaps that was because it was made in Sweden.
    Why arn't we clicking with guy?

    1. Also could've been because it starred Erland Joesphsen.


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