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Near a gray and unnamed city is the Zone, an alien place guarded by barbed wire and soldiers. Over his wife's objections, a man rises in the early morning and leaves her with their disabled daughter to meet two men. He's a Stalker, one of a handful who have the mental gifts (and who risk imprisonment) to lead people into the Zone to the Room, a place where one's secret hopes come true. His clients are a burned out popular writer, cynical, and questioning his talent; and a quiet scientist more concerned about his knapsack than the journey. In the deserted Zone, the approach to the Room must be indirect. As they draw near, the rules seem to change and the stalker faces a crisis. Written by
The Region 2 Artificial Eye DVD includes interesting interviews with the cameraman and production designer. The production designer reveals that the film was completed only to be destroyed because it had been shot on experimental Kodak and couldn't be developed - a whole year's work was ruined. He proposes the possibility that the authorities of the time didn't want it to be developed. The incident nearly destroyed Tarkovsky. He was finally persuaded to go back and film a new Stalker, this time on a shoestring budget.
What does the film mean? Ask me again when I've watched it maybe ten times.
Certainly the Zone means more to Stalker than the Room. The Room is his living, but the Zone is an escape, a sanctuary from the noisy, industrial rusting slum where he lives (captured brilliantly in metallic sepia). In the Zone everything eventually returns to nature - like a pastoral coral reef growing on a battleship lichen and mosses engulf factory buildings and tanks. His first action on arriving there is to leave the other two occupied while he communes with the natural things growing in the zone, the grasses, the dew, the soil, the tiny worm that dances head-over-tail down his hand.
A beautiful, great and puzzling film. But then if it revealed all its secrets straight off then, apart from the beautiful visuals and the soundtrack it would be pointless watching it again. Great art only leaches out its secrets gradually and only to those with the desire to learn them.
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