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The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags are used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.
Yes. The movie is loosely based on Roadside Picnic (1972), a novel by Russian science fiction authors Boris and Arkady Strugatsky.
The "stalkers" in this movie are not people-prowlers like in the modern sense. Rather, they are trackers who stalk artifacts left behind by aliens who have visited the Earth and since departed. In the novel, one of the characters compares them to the nervous animals that venture forth from the forest to help themselves to the food and garbage left behind after picnickers depart.
The term was coined by the Strugatsky brothers as a reference to Rudyard Kipling's "Stalky & Co." stories.
Stalker is loosely based on the Strugatsky brothers' book and the script was written with collaboration on their part, however, several scripts were written and rewritten during the filming and dubbing of the film (actors Aleksandr Kajdanovsky and Nikolai Grinko claim there were at least ten different versions of the script). The first major rewrite took place after the loss of all the material shot for the first part of the film, with Tarkovsky taking the opportunity to change the plot in a completely different direction, moving away from the science-fiction theme of the book (supposedly, the first script was much more similar to the original story). Unlike the book, the film is not particularly concerned with explaining the origin of the Zones or the traps within them. The characters are radically different and so are their motivations (in the book, the Stalker, named "Red", enters the Zone in search of the Golden Ball which may grant him a wish to save his daughter's life). Tarkovsky kept many references from the book, such as the traps, the throwing of metal bolts, dialog lines and other details, but ultimately, the film is a completely different adaptation of the book.
The premiere took place at Dom Kino (Cinema House) in mid-May 1979, followed by a general release a few days later.
The film was shot in Tallinn, Estonia.
"'What was it? A meteorite? A visit of inhabitants of the cosmic abyss? One way or another, our small country has seen the birth of a miracle - the Zone. We immediately sent troops there. They haven't come back. Then we surrounded the Zone with police cordons... Perhaps, that was the right thing to do. Though, I don't know...' From an interview with Nobel Prize winner, Professor Wallace."
The poem recited by the Stalker (supposedly written by Porcupine's brother) was written by the director's father, Arseniy Tarkovsky ("But there has to be more"). At the end, the poem recited by the Stalker's daughter, is by the Russian poet Fyodor Tyuchev ("I love your dear eyes, my friend").
* A passage from Revelation 6:12-17 is recited during the "Stalker's dream" sequence, speaking about the opening of the sixth seal by the Lamb and the destruction of Heaven and Earth.* After this sequence, the Stalker paraphrases a passage from Luke 24:13-18, describing the road to Emmaus episode, where two disciples fail to recognize Jesus after his resurrection. The two disciples are compared to the Professor and the Writer, but their names (one of them, Cleopas, present in the biblical passage) are omitted from the Stalker's speech.* Another religious reference is made in the "sand trap" room, about the legend of the Wandering Jew, who was doomed to wander the Earth until the Second Coming, for scorning Jesus on his way to the Crucifixion.* A fragment of a religious icon painted by Jan Van Eyck (from the Ghent altarpiece, also known as the "Adoration of the Mystic Lamb") can also be seen between the debris shown in the Stalker's dream sequence.* Finally, a wreath of thorns is found in the final gauntlet (in the room with the phone), which the writer puts on his head in a clear allusion to Jesus on the cross. This is also seen on the region 2 DVD cover.These religious references have lead some critics to give "Stalker" a Christian interpretation, which was not the original intention of the director, despite this deliberate use of religious iconography.
"STALKER" was shot with standard "Academy" ratio (1.33:1), the size of a standard TV set.Originally, Tarkovsky wanted to shoot it in Sovscope (2.35:1), the Russian equivalent of Cinemascope, but changed his mind before the shooting commenced. So it was an artistic decision.Tarkovsky only shot two films in scope, Andrey Rublyov and Solyaris. Ivan's Childhood, Mirror, and Stalker were shot 1.33:1. His final two films, Nostalghia and The Sacrifice, were shot in a 1.66:1 aspect ratio.
Vida T. Johnson and Graham Petrie ("The Films of Andrei Tarkovsky: A visual fugue", p.152) state that the average shot length is roughly 1 minute, with a total of "142 shots in 161 minutes, with many 4 minutes or longer". The longest shot lasts 6 minutes and 50 seconds (the telephone room scene).
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