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The most Humanist Film in Existence
OttoVonB16 October 2005
Andrei Tarkovsky is a rarity among filmmakers in that he creates films that resemble elaborate (and always smartly written, beautifully shot and superbly acted) puzzles. The pieces are always scattered, and Tarkovsky relies on his viewer to bring the final element of the puzzle along with him. SOLARIS explores the boundaries of consciousness and the sense of grief (and it uses the titular planet as a metaphor for God). ANDREI ROUBLEV is a multi-layered voyage into religious belief. STALKER, however, is far more spiritual and existential than both of them.

A teacher and a scientist wish to go to a restricted patch of nature - the mythical conscious "Zone" - to make their wishes come true. To enter the area and survive its numerous danger, they hire a man sensible to the Zone's thoughts and actions, a Stalker. What they find there turns out to be very different from what they expected, as they come to discover who they truly are.

There's only so much you can say without getting drowned in details that would appear heavy-handed on paper but flow seamlessly on screen. Quite often, Tarkovsky reduces his characters to silence, letting their movements and eyes convey their thoughts and feelings and letting the viewer bring his own thoughts and beliefs to the film. One of STALKER's many treats is that it invites you to get carried away into your own thoughts, flowing with the images as it provides new questions to ponder... In that sense, the film is very much like a philosophical poem: a very simple surface covering innumerable layers of meaning. Yet the images Tarkovsky provides - whether filming landscapes or wide-shots or simply peering into his actors' extraordinary faces - make this almost hypnotic.

STALKER is a treasure: an invitation to go on a mental ride with a poet and philosopher. A film that makes you wonder more about yourself yet without making you anxious. The few existing films like STALKER are the reason why cinema is called "art"!
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Journey into Fear
Oblomov_818 February 2003
The characters at the heart of Tarkovsky's "Stalker" are people who embark on an arduous journey only to discover that they had no idea what they wanted to gain from it. The central character is a "stalker," a man who makes a living by illegally escorting people through a restricted area to The Room, a place where their greatest wish will supposedly come true. Exactly why the area is restricted is never made perfectly clear; in the novel this film is partially based on, "The Roadside Picnic," it was a site where aliens briefly landed, and The Room was an object they left behind almost as if it were refuse. But Tarkovsky would rather not settle for such a flat explanation. To him, The Room is a place that means different things to the people who journey there, and the stark, ravished landscape they must journey through consists of the phobias and anxieties that they can hardly bear to face. The expedition the men experience is a long and often maddening one, and there are many scenes where the camera lingers on a beautifully composed shot so that the viewer can take time to understand how the characters fit into the settings and how those settings form both natural and supernatural obstacles.

Andrei Tarkovsky was an artist who did not like giving solid answers to the questions his films posed. He sculpted his stories so that viewers who had the patience and self-discipline to stay attentive all the way through could draw their own conclusions. If there is any specific meaning to "Stalker," it is that we have to fully understand anything for which we are willing to alter our lives.
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Imagine listening to a cheap philosophical audio-book while walking through an exhibition of art photography with depressive motifs ...
Bored_Dragon31 July 2021
This cult achievement of Andrei Tarkovsky is generally accepted as one of the masterpieces of Russian cinematography. When I had the opportunity to see it on the big screen, I couldn't miss it. Fortunately, the ticket was extremely cheap.

"Stalker" is based on the SF novel "Roadside Picnic" by the Strugatskiy brothers, who adapted it into the script themselves. Although its genre classification is the same as that of the novel, "Stalker" is a philosophical and psychological drama, whose SF premise is only mentioned, and I believe that it is no more than a mere illusion in the minds of the protagonists, so the SF determinant leads to completely wrong expectations.

The film opens with a very slow but mesmerizingly atmospheric and superbly shot scene, each frame of which is an art photograph. Already in those first moments, I saw myself rating it a ten, but from there on the film only goes downhill.

To be clear, the rest of the film doesn't visually lag behind that first scene, but too long shots that show totally uninteresting people who do more or less nothing, no matter how beautifully shot, are not enough to hold my attention for almost three hours. If I wanted to enjoy top photography, I would go to an exhibition and not to the cinema. Of those three hours, perhaps a third is filled with plot, which again is largely reduced to monologues, while nothing really happens. Essentially, this looks more like a monodrama than a movie.

In the center of events is an area called the Zone, in which there is a room that, for those who get it alive, fulfills the greatest wish. The basic message of the film is: "Be careful what you wish for it might come true", because the Room does not fulfill the wish that we consciously ask for, but the essential one, hidden in the depths of man.

This is an interesting premise from which you will not see anything in the film. We don't know for sure whether the Zone is special in any way at all, nor do any of the protagonists use the Room. The premise is only there to give us the background to study the personalities of the people who headed to the zone and their guide, Stalker.

The plot itself can be told in a few sentences, while the whole story is reduced to a philosophical monologue by the author through the mouths of three protagonists. There are no original philosophical ideas or interesting views on life. Just a bunch of true, but long-worn philosophical and psychological phrases, pretentiously packaged so that they seem more profound and significant than they really are.

General impression - beautifully filmed but pretentious and hard to watch, without the essential strength to justify the effort. Just because of the technical qualities and the atmosphere, I can't go below


"The photography, in this case, is like the wrapping of an empty present box." - trans_mauro.
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Unaware that I was myself. Soon I awaked, and there I was. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming
chaos-rampant6 March 2016
It's been 5 years (already!) since I saw my last Tarkovsky. I had come to rest with Zerkalo, because here was a man, one of few, very few in the cinema, who can permeate so deeply into the essential mystery of how things move, and he only made a handful of movies really so I must make them last, and take them in when the time feels right. My next one might be in another 5 years time, but yesterday night the time felt right for this, one I've been heartily anticipating for years.

This is Tarkovsky entering the mind once more. He never does it in any obvious, Inception way, it's never actually the mind; but we arrive at a place, a source of the imagining, where wind blows from and rings each thing into being. In Rublev he was the artist looking to paint the face of god in a godless world that concealed it. In Solyaris he was the cosmonaut. In Zerkalo, a filmmaker who recalled a whole life, receiving visions at the doorstep. Here he's the Stalker who takes us into the Zone, obvious enough.

Each one is self-referential of course about the very process of stepping into the movie. The Zone as a Tarkovsky movie - full of desolate nature and a mysterious presence that bends logic. We first have to cross the iron border where censors (his illiterate Soviet patrons) prevent entry.

This is the border guarded by the irongated mechanisms of reason that has to be crossed before we can begin our guided meditation beyond logic. One way he does this is by splitting himself into characters. One is a scientist, which is Tarkovsky's critique of a mechanistic worldview that reduces a tree to what biological facts it can explain. Another is a writer, a surrogate for Tarkovsky's intellectual self who despairs about the possibility of words to communicate sense. The Stalker himself as who Tarkovsky feels himself to be most purely, the guide who knows the whims of this landscape and wants nothing other than to bring us to the doorstep of miracle.

It's his uncanny ability, as always, to pave the way for that miracle. We never enter "the room", as it were. But we are brought to the doorstep. He cultivates the space that leads up to that apperception, this is what people call elusive and dreamlike. Tarkovsky's real work is that he teaches, rewires, us how to see, effects this change in the whole of logic of space, so that we leave with Tarkovsky eyes to go back out. This is far more valuable, and insightful, than any of the imagery that blends industrial grime, fish and religious iconography (in one memorable instance, with voice-over from John's Apocalypse). It's that elements can swirl and reflect in this way.

He does several wonderful things, some of them completely breathtaking like the meditation on music that rings a chord in the listener who responds to it with what we have no other name to call but soul. He stretches space, seemingly with no effort, both in the industrial segment early and then across the Zone. He makes the geography elastic, shuffles boundaries of forward and back. It's not that this means something again, it's that the place in which you can receive _anything_ (which is perception itself) can bent thus. The result is a marvelous sense of heaving. Thunderous views of a train, or waterfalls, crash across the frame. Same thing. It's his most sculptural work so far.

The dilapidated Soviet locales provide ample opportunity for gnarly imagery, I simply shudder to think that it was actually filmed in places like we see. It's possible that we're seeing the place that killed him and several more from cast and crew.

But there's also another side that I want to draw my distance from. In Zerkalo he had reached a point of equanimity that lets go of questions and accepts what is, that for better or worse a life was lived. This is gone here and replaced with a sense of tiredness and cynicism that narrows down to the personal. Now it's not about what is let go of, it's about what is clung onto. None of it is sci-fi of course. But too much is an artist's stream-of-consciousness on what place his own art has. Too much is angsty here. What am I to make for example of Stalker being escorted to bed by his wife, now a pathetic figure who complains that no one wants what he has to show? This is a dangerous path to take because it substitutes the struggle to make sense of life, with the struggle to deliver art about doing it and complain that no one appreciates it. The latter Tarkovsky is far less interesting to me than the former. I fear he would get worse in this regard, compounded by his exile from home.

I've read about how Tarkovsy was possibly interested in Zen Buddhism and Tao while preparing for this and may have incorporated influence. There is the notion of spontaneous arising in the Zone as the Zen mind and the bit about how the soft endures while the hard breaks that comes from the Daodejing. It doesn't really venture into either, its preconceptions simply lie elsewhere. But Tarkovsky fails to make use of the Buddhist wisdom in his own predicaments. Instead of letting go, he clings to the burden of fixed views. He suffers their weight, for no reason I might add. The title of this post is a Taoist excerpt.

So there are two sides here. The journey to where perception is made fluid and mingles with its reflection and the intellectual burden of its creator. One soft, the other hard. Maybe in another 5 years I will get to see what gives way in Nostalghia.
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Not Sci-Fi?
smartestjane5 June 2003
Some have claimed that "Stalker" is not a science fiction film. I'd say it's more of a science fiction film than most of what Hollywood passes off as part of the genre, most of which are simply action films with a sci-fi bent. Stalker is science fiction in the vein of the genres greatest writers like Phillip K. Dick and Stanislaw Lem. It's pure science fiction, based on science, metaphysics and speculation, not some action fantasy or space opera that fits into the genre on the technicality that it takes place "in the future" or "a long, long time ago". The film is slow...very slow but it has to be to put you into the mindset of the film. After the opening 30 minutes the pacing actually draws you into the film in a more personal way more than any Cyborg-post-apocalyptic-hell crap Hollywood could spew out. This film is truly sci-fi, and truly great sci-fi.
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"Don't stick your nose in someone's underwear if you don't understand it."
classicsoncall13 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
How many of you kept waiting..., and waiting..., and waiting..., for something to happen - for the big surprise - for anything at all? When this movie finished, I had to concede that director Andrei Tarkovsky is perhaps the master of saying nothing in the longest amount of time possible. On top of that, the dialog was incoherent and went absolutely nowhere. If I wasn't a stickler for watching an entire movie for the sake of writing a review here, I would have given up well before the half way mark.

Now lest I sound a bit out of sorts here, I'd like to point to a few other reviews by those who seemingly purport to understand what this was all about. One states "It's like a poem written with objects. We must feel before we try to understand". Another writer says that the movie has 'a well thought out and concise perspective'. And one more, who claims "The scenery is evocatively atmospheric, mundane but in a good way".

Note that not one of these folks said anything that offers any help in following the story or what it's about. In fact, if you go to the FAQ page for this film on IMDb, there's not a word of explanation mentioned about what's going on, unlike other esoteric films that can be translated in some meaningful way. I would point to films like "Inception" and "Donnie Darko" to make my point on that.

So what we seem to have here is an existential, dystopian Seinfeld episode about nothing. My summary line is an actual quote from the 'stalker' in the movie, warning his fellow travelers by advising them to stick close by his side, lest they fall prey to some hidden danger in 'The Zone'. By the time this thing was over, after all mind-numbing one hundred sixty two minutes of it, I had to concur with the words of The Professor who at one point near the end of the story said " makes no sense to me at all".
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great masterpiece from greatest director
envergulsen26 August 2004
i want to say somethings about the most poetic,philosophical and intuitive director, tarkovsky and his movies ,especially Stalker.

first of all, we must all know that, tarkovsky is not for all. his poetic understanding of life and human and putting this understanding to his movies is unique in the world for my opinion. one of the most poetic and philosophical movies of him, Stalker is that kind of movie. it is like a poem written with objects. we must feel before we try to understand.

opening sequence of film contains some kind of expressionist objects with related the moral and inner conditions of the people living in the town . the "dirty" black and white take gives the viewers ,the mood of people having nothing to live, nothing to believe and nothing to give others.and the aggressive green take in the "zone" gives another vision of the life. the camera moves very slow to make us to go into to film and feel the film. tarkovsky's usage of objects and colours is very different and that is why i think he was a cinema poet. on the other hand, in addition to this "poem written with objects", the film also has very deep philosophical content. what is life,what is human, what is goodness, what is selfishness, what is devotion, what are the bases of our civilizations etc. and people are made to think all these things, not mostly with dialogs but with objects and colours and complete vision.

for example, the three objects shown while the camera goes into the water ,but actually to the heart of human being and we see one cringe, one gun and one religious icon. and these are the metaphors of the human civilizations for my opinion. and all the journey into to the "zone" and finally "room" , actually done into the human being. into our selfishness,into our subconsciousness, our badness,our goodness, our weak and strong parts. actually i can feel that , the things searched in this movie are our lost innocence . the stalker is the only people who believes something and needs to believe .and actually the journey itself is a fake. to go to the truth,faith,justice, goodness are being related with innocence in that movie. the microcosms shown poetically in the water is another metaphor shows human being's selfish behaviour. because human, destroys the things,destroys the innocence, destroys the world living around them.our today's civilization broke our strong cooperation with nature and changed this relationship to a nature disaster. the movie gives the message of the need of mercy to all the living and even non-living things in our nature. because human being's salvation is only related with that.

and the need of hope, need of believe is human being's basic needs. and our modern world destroyed all the hopes and believes. the movie contains metaphors making us to feel and think about those needs.and the most critical thing is felt in the film that self-denial is the basic need in our world.and unfortunately this value is lost and needed to be re-gain.

i can tell about all the metaphors in the movie but no need. because every person understand those things different like kafka's novels. and we just need to watch the movie with no prejudice but with open heart.

i recommend this film to all the cinema-lovers. i recommend also not to try to understand this film. only leave yourself to this great poem and it will give you all you need.
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An interesting interview on the DVD
Kenny J1 May 2003
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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The Silent Monolith Needs to Be Explored
zolaaar28 November 2005
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.
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More Tarkovsky brilliance
TheLittleSongbird4 January 2015
Stalker may not be my favourite of Andrei Tarkovsky's films, that belongs to Andrei Rublev, which is from personal opinion the greatest Soviet film ever made. It's also not his most accessible(Ivan's Childhood), if anything only Solaris is more divisive. However Stalker is still an outstanding film, it loses momentum ever so slightly at the end but not enough for it to hurt the film.

As with all Tarkovsky films, Stalker is brilliantly made. It is grittier and more muted in colour than with his other films, but still maintains that hypnotic dream-like quality that the cinematography in his films have. The scenery is evocatively atmospheric, mundane but in a good way. Tarkovsky's direction again is nigh-on impeccable, showing a mastery of visuals and mood. Stalker is hauntingly scored but never in a too obvious way, while of all his films to me it was Stalker that had the most thought-provoking writing. Not all of it is easy to understand at first but a lot of the lines really makes one think a long while after. The story is not for everyone, with some finding the deliberate pacing too much for them but the storytelling is actually very suspenseful and there is a chilling atmosphere throughout, the film is slow but the suspense, atmosphere and cinematography kept this viewer glued to the seat. The acting's of the kind with the actors having times where they don't say a lot or anything but their body language, eyes and expressions communicate an awful lot, which is every bit as powerful as when speaking.

Overall, an outstanding film if not Tarkovsky's best or most accessible. If you are a fan of Tarkovsky, or at least familiar with him ,you shouldn't have too much trouble getting into Stalker. 9.5/10 Bethany Cox
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Brilliant - one of the greatest examples of cinema as art
grantss17 March 2017
Warning: Spoilers
In a small, unnamed country there is an area called the Zone. It is apparently inhabited by aliens and contains the Room, wherein it is believed wishes are granted. The government has declared The Zone a no-go area and have sealed off the area with barbed wire and border guards. However, this has not stopped people from attempting to enter the Zone. We follow one such party, made up of a writer, who wants to use the experience as inspiration for his writing, and a professor, who wants to research the Zone for scientific purposes. Their guide is a man to whom the Zone is everything, the Stalker.

Superb, profound, thought-provoking movie by famed Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky. If ever you needed an example of how cinema is more than simply entertainment but is art, holding the mirror up to nature, this is it.

The movie starts as a science-fiction adventure, and a very intriguing and engaging one. While Tarkovsky develops the plot slowly, it is never dull. In fact, the slowness ramps up the suspense. It also gives you time to admire Tarkovsky's excellent camera work. Every shot is perfectly chosen and captured, resulting in the movie seeming more like a series of paintings than a film. This, despite the simple, basic production quality and the dearth of remastered copies (the version I watched was in 240p!).

As the movie progresses it moves from being plot-driven to something much more metaphoric and ends up covering a multitude of macro-level societal issues.

Most prominent, and important, is a debate around science vs art vs religion, each represented by the three protagonists. Tarkovsky doesn't take sides, but gives every faction a chance to state their case. What you end up with is a reasonable explanation for each side's value in society, and why there is friction between the three.

This all said, the initial instinct with this movie may be one of disappointment. There is no great resolution in the end, either to the mysteries of the Zone or the debates between the three lead characters. For those expecting closure and a neat tying up of the plot, this is likely to be a let-down.

However, if you think about it, this is perfect. Tarkovsky retains his neutral stance and leaves it to the viewer to think things through. More than anything, he is not providing solutions, or a "winner", but making you think about the issues, and life in general.
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Mesmerizing, intelligent and haunting …yet overlong and inconsistent
Alexandar11 January 2005
Stalker (1979)***½ Stalker is rich, spiritual and contemplative journey through the fantastic inner world of human's hope, desire, disillusions and believes. Main characters, Writer (as incarnation of irrational, imaginative and emotional aspects of our nature or subconsciousness) and Scientist (rational, logic forces or consciousness) are guided by Stalker (symbolizing our desire, will and everlasting search of meaning) to the mysterious Zone (which may represent all our spiritual goals, meanings, struggles to achieve them and barriers in our path). Breathtaking and mesmerizing images and sounds, witty dialog and strong concept are the major virtues of this feature. Writer's monologues are among the most meaningful, thought-provoking and spiritual moments I ever experienced in any art. But the movie is overlong losing its powerful initial momentum and becoming inconsistent in it's final message (by final I don't mean last in chronology but overall). Tarkovsky's earlier SF drama "Solaris" is more structured and fully developed. Nevertheless, Stalker is an outstanding piece of art movie that puts its director among the few true cinema masters. Rating: 8.5/10
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kenjha3 April 2009
The opening scenes are incredibly drab, filmed in sepia tone, as some characters engage in uninteresting conversations in a gray, depressing, and filthy city. After a while, the characters escape to a forbidden place known as the Zone, which is in color (like Oz) and has trees, flowers, and flowing streams. While the change in scenery is welcome, the characters continue to blabber on and on and on, sprouting boring and pointless philosophy. Tarkovsky has to be one of the most self-indulgent directors ever. It's torture having to sit through this heavy-handed and depressing film, especially at a length of nearly three hours. Put a restraining order on this stalker.
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A couple of great moments in a really tedious film.
gridoon15 January 2003
Well, the story of a "Zone" that makes your deepest, most unconscious wishes come true is one that holds magical possibilities, but you won't find most of them here. Someone else has already called this film tedious and pretentious, and I agree. Actually, not to call "Stalker" pretentious would almost be an insult to Tarkovsky himself! (He even brought up the subject of why music touches our souls at one point). And not to call it tedious would be the same as kidding yourself; the film is downright unbearable at times, and probably always deliberately so. Moments of beauty and revelation do exist (like the realization of the true nature of "The Room"), but they are few and far between. Mostly the film will try your patience by having its three characters accomplish in more than two hours what they could've accomplished in less than 40 minutes. The ending is mega-disappointing. (**1/2)
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Oh my God, I just can't
cherold30 August 2021
For me, Andrei Tarkovsky has always been the guy who directed that slow and pointless version of Solaris that all the critics loved. I didn't really plan to every watch another of his films, but after reading an article in the New Yorker that suggested Solaris was far from his best and Stalker was great, I thought I'd check it out.

The opening monochromatic scenes look stunning. It's really worth watching a bit just to see really great cinematography.

Things move slow from the beginning, but then they pretty much grind to a halt when characters start having long philosophical conversations, something I associate more with French films than Russian ones.

Tarkovsky seems determined to make sure there is not a moment of excitement in the movie. He takes a scene of people sneaking through a heavily-patrolled area to reach "The Zone" and drains it of every possibility of suspense, making the whole thing an endless slog.

When they reach The Zone the movie goes to color and the cinematography becomes drab. So the last little thing that made the film worth watching was gone.

So that's it for me. I don't care how many people love him, I am done with Tarkovsky. Won't get fooled again.
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Fascinating, elliptical masterpiece which replays and resonates in the mind long after it has finished.
barnabyrudge4 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Taking its inspiration from an Eastern bloc sci-fi novel entitled The Roadside Picnic by Arkadi and Boris Strugatsky, "Stalker" is a film that literally typifies Andrei Tarkovsky's approach to film-making. Mysterious, personal, elliptical, beautiful, philosophical, disturbing, inspiring – all at the same time. But there are two factors above all others that make this film truly a work of genius. Firstly, if Tarkovsky ever intended the audience to glean one specific interpretation of his film he never shows his cards, thereby inviting every individual viewer to undergo an experience vastly different than the person sitting next to them. Secondly, "Stalker" is one of those rare films that replays and resonates in your mind long after it has finished. You may be driving along months after you last saw it, and an image or idea from the film might suddenly pop into your mind. You may be running a bath one morning and for no obvious reason find your musing about one of the many mysteries generated in the film.

In a small, unspecified country, there exists a Zone where the laws of science and logic cease to hold true. The Zone was formed following a meteorite strike (or possibly a celestial visitation). Now, the border of the Zone is continually patrolled by armed guards with instructions to prevent anyone from entering. And there are plenty of people who WOULD like to enter, for rumours abound that at the centre of the Zone lies a Room where innermost wishes can be granted. Stalker (Aleksandr Kajdanovsky) makes a living by smuggling people into the Zone and guiding them through its hazardous landscape to the Room. His wife (Alisa Frejndlikh) has grown to detest his frequent absences on such dangerous jobs, more so because while he is away she must tend to their daughter Monkey (Natasha Abramova), physically disabled yet in possession of telekinetic powers due to her father's exposure to the Zone. Stalker finds himself taking two new "customers" into the Zone – Writer (Anatoli Solonitsyn), who wishes to find fresh inspiration, and Professor (Nikolai Grinko), who claims to be fascinated by the scientific mysteries within the Zone, but is in fact on a secret mission to blow it up in order to prevent the potential for an evil person to have their darkest wishes granted at the Room.

Tarkovsky presents the outer world as an impoverished, litter-strewn dump, shot in endlessly dull sepia colours, while the scenes based in the Zone are filmed in striking colour to emphasis the lush greenery. But he also makes the Zone seem permanently dangerous, with Kajdanovsky uttering cryptic warnings about its ever-changing pathways and wearing furtive, fearful expressions upon his face all the time they are there. By having his camera more often than not positioned at some distance from the characters, Tarkovsky makes the audience feel like spies and this in turn creates paranoid suspense, as if the three main characters are continually being watched by some unknown force. In the film's stunning climax, Stalker assumes messianic characteristics - he breaks down in tears and laments the fact that nobody he has taken to the Room has fulfilled their dreams. "Nobody believes. Nobody! Who am I going to take there? Oh, God… And what's most awful is that no-one needs it. No-one needs that room, and all my efforts are just in vain". Like Jesus, Stalker is trying to convince people that they MUST have faith…. Tarkovsky's shattering conclusion is that he cannot win in the face of a cynical society, but the one redeeming fact is that his daughter's amazing powers may give her strength to succeed where her father has not. This is challenging, essential cinema.
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Confusing sci-fi drama with more than enough Length
m-ramanan24 August 2021
RATED 7/10 Language: Russian

I couldnt understand the movie fully, need to read the blogs to understand the climax. Its so confusing sci-fi drama. The making and characters are so classic. The movie is too artistic and dead slow. The Length of the movie is another big minus.

Its pure art with no entertaining factor.... just enjoy the cinema.
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Overlong, unengaging and pretentious.
Christopher_Reid5 September 2007
Another one of the most disappointing movies I've ever seen. What I felt was worst about Stalker was that it came across as pretentious, a term I do not use lightly. Where normally a director would attempt to engage their audience somehow, to make their thoughts and ideas in some way accessible, Tarkovsky seems to have the attitude that there is no need for this, that people should patiently watch a slow, uninvolving movie and simply figure it out for themselves. Granted, I would agree that in general audiences should be patient and open minded with films and that very often, especially with "great" movies, the more an audience puts in, the more they get out. This was certainly not the case with Stalker which I felt practically alienated its audience rather than welcoming them in.

I would like to be proved wrong and I'm sure I could have payed more attention in areas (although this is arguably the fault of the film to some degree). But even if I later find Stalker not to be so pretentious, it remains unnecessarily long and slow paced. Plus, there isn't any clear pay off at the end. No climax.

For example, the cinematography was predictable and repetitive, and even worse, drew attention to itself. In the first 10 seconds of various shots you notice that you are (very very) slowly zooming in (or out) and you immediately know that for the next few minutes, that's all you're gonna get. It wouldn't matter so prominent if the film were more eventful and interesting. I felt that its style didn't create an atmosphere so much as it reflected the lack of creativity from the filmmakers.

Nevertheless, I thought the acting was very good but it's hard to get into the characters if almost every shot is a wide shot and there are barely any close-ups. The music was forgettable, not necessarily bad per se but clearly lacking in power and effectiveness. Some of the locations were quite memorable and imaginative but I can't help but feel as though they were barely explored or touched upon. Some of the shots were nice and bring you into the movie's world quite well (for example, the abrupt colouration change) but these moments are unfortunately few and far between. Also, some of the dialogue was interesting but it never seemed to go anywhere.

I have to admit, it is quite likely that I just completely missed the point of Stalker or that it's so different from what I have seen that I was unable to properly appreciate its merits. In that case I look forward to finally enjoying it some time in the distant future (I'm not keen to rewatch it anytime soon).

Nevertheless, if I've established anything from watching Stalker in my personal quest to understand and appreciate film, it's the importance of the tone of a film. If a film comes across as at all pretentious, it is virtually impossible to enjoy, no matter what qualities it does have. In terms of measuring or defining pretentiousness, the best way I can think of putting it is that somehow one gets the impression not as much effort was put into the film as could have been and that instead the audience is expected to put it together for themselves; the filmmakers don't work for attention and appreciation, they simply expect it.
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Cure for sleepiness
trans_mauro23 March 2009
Brilliant, intelligent, sci-fi at its best....Those were the things I heard about Stalker before renting a DVD and watching it. I had great expectations. And, to be honest, these expectations were fulfilled, somehow.

Well, we have to adapt and find other uses for the things that are around us. A stone can be used as a weapon or a paper weight, a decorative piece, or a substrate for lichen growth, you got the idea, right? Now, in that vein, I would say that I found a perfect use for a movie like that. Is it a lesson in cinema? No! Is it a lesson in story- telling? No! Is it a well-crafted sci-fi story? No!

Stalker is the perfect cure for insomnia. It works, it is fool-proof, and best of all, it is non-addictive. It could not be better! Fifteen minutes watching it and you'll be sleeping like a baby!

Stalker and movies like it demonstrate why art, artists and "artsy things" are totally useless and even detrimental to society. They have no imagination, no creative power. They think that emptiness, nothingness, boredom are meaningful.

Nothing happens, it is amazing. It is like staring at an empty canvas.... And I think that this is the problem, I know people, lots of people that think that staring at an empty canvas is meaningful, enlightening.

No wonder so many raving reviews of Stalker.

Watching grass grow would be more interesting, at least you would be looking at something that is alive.

ON the plus side (yes, there is a plus side) the photography is beautiful. But, again, this not enough to save Stalker. The photography in this case is like the wrapping of an empty present box.
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It is high art - pause anytime during viewing and enjoy
ooose5 May 2005
Warning: Spoilers
For me, it's, quite simply, the best film ever made; Don't you find you can pause any Tarkovsky film at any moment and the art on your screen is good enough to have as a poster on your wall for life ? With Stalker it is doubly true. The first time I experienced the tunnel scene my heart nearly stopped. This was in 1984 I watched the TV listings in England for 20 years waiting for a repeat - finally buying the DVD in 2004, though I couldn't really afford it. Proof that a SCI-FI film does not need tons of effects to work. In a science fiction film book I read years ago they rated Stalker as the only film ever made deserving full marks in all 3 sections. Imagine if Tarkovsky had made a film of one of PKD's novels ?! OK, I'm dreaming ?! We are lucky to have been blessed by his genius. The good die young. All the best, Rich (English, 38 yrs, Paris)
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Stalker is not boring
peeter-piiri-00119 December 2004
It seems to me that I see Tarkovsky' movies differently from many other people. For me this film is not "too long" or boring. For me this is one of the best movies ever made.

Western culture has a very long tradition of film-making. Usually typical western movie is focused on "story". (Of course - not always) The sharpness and tension of the movie are achieved by the big number of cuts or by the fast varying of shots or by the sudden varying of plans or by some surprising angle of camera etc. Tarkovsky don't like cuts. The number of cuts is minimal. His camera is moving like in dream (Bergman envied Tarkovsky for that), it has no angles at all. Colours are pale, "dirty", very tender, soft, almost black-and-white.

In a typical western movie dialog is followed by the camera. Picture is illustrating text and is subordinated to it. In Stalker text and visual image are coexisting, cooperating with each-other. Both are moving on their own ways but at the same time, somehow - harmonically. Text and picture are not subordinated, they are both independent.

Why is Tarkovsky using such a weird language? Surely not only because he wants to opposite the dogmas of western cinema. He has a positive message too. Audience of his films has to understand his films not only at the level of thinking or emotions, but at the level of much deeper consciousness. Therefore watching his movies means rather meditation than watching-TV-and-eating-popcorn. The purpose of Tarkovsky's films is to loose the mind of audiences, to wake it up to much deeper attention. So that audiences can simply watch and see.

Stalker is not an entertainment and is not supposed to be. It means there is no sense at all to watch Stalker, when you need some amusing entertainment. Stalker is a serious movie. It is very narrow-minded to evaluate movies on the assumption of entertainment only. Of course, we live in the world of movie-consumers, produced by powerful film-companies, demanding more and more and more exciting entertainment. Consumer doesn't understand this movie. For him it is big bore.
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Stalker is more than a film; it is an act of Faith.
auberus5 May 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Some say the zone was born from the crash of a meteorite, some say the zone is a gift from an Alien civilization. Whatever they say the zone is a miracle.

An unnamed rainy city and in its surrounding is the Zone, in this Zone is a Room, and "here we are at the threshold. This is the most important moment of your lives. You have to know that here your most cherished wish, the most sincere one, the one reached through suffering" is about to come true.

If we don't make the effort to change our point of view we may pass on a tremendously poetic experiment. In fact "Stalker" may very well appear as three hours bore fest... But if we take five minutes of our precious time to confront our questioning then we would witness how cinema connects directly with our heart and maybe with our Soul.

In "Stalker" we follow three different persons who share a unique goal, reaching the zone but have very different reasons to do so.

The stalker is a guide who takes the willing to the 'zone'. One is a professor. It seems his motivation is to see the scientific significance of the area. He believes in science and in science only. He is a realist. The second is a writer who wants to recover his lost inspiration. He only believes in facts and in facts only. He is a cynic. They are both hopeless and looking to reveal the secret of the zone...But does the zone bare any secret? And if so how could someone incapable of Hope, reveal a secret based on a simple wish?

The film is a voyage not only from a town to the zone but also from monochrome browns to realistic colors and more importantly from shadow to enlightenment

As mentioned the stalker is the guide, he is genuinely searching for the right path through the zone and to the room. He is pondering every decision he takes, not rushing through the zone but testing the path and approaching side ways. He proceeds in a caution manner guided it seems only by his intuition. It is so irrational that it irritates the writer who decides to go through the zone in a more straight forward fashion. But as we understand the zone like Life is not straight forward, not always rational as it reflects our fears, our despairs and our disbelieves. In short life is dangerous and so is the zone... The professor says it himself "going forward is scary but going back is shameful" so maybe the stalker's way is the only possible way. Unlike the two intellectuals he has the intuition of what reality is.

Eventually it seems our three protagonists are involved in a spiritual struggle. The problem is the scientist and the writer are in denial of this spirituality and the stalker is an intuitive being who can't put a name on his spiritual search. For them Reality "is at best the result of the soul rubbing against the material world" and at worst sequences of facts. So in essence if you go looking for something you don't really believe in or you can't apprehend...would you find it?

At the doorstep of the room our three protagonists refuse to go in. The Professor wants to destroy the room; he is scared of what he can't comprehend. The writer endorses the Professor's choice to destroy the room. He is scared of facing his own shadows. They both lack Faith in Humanity. The Stalker doesn't go in either. His place in this world is to guide people his hope lies in others not in himself. He has Faith in Humanity. But the Stalker can't let the so called intellectuals destroy the last place where people can hope and believe again. He reminds them that Hope is "all people have got left on this earth". Hope is what makes us Human…

The disappointment of the Stalker is as big as his hope in the professor and the writer was, he had chosen carefully those two in the hope they will be able to put a name on his Faith, unfortunately they can't as if science and intelligence have nothing to do with Faith.

A thunderstorm breaks out and rain starts to pore from the roof. Our three searchers sit down behind a water curtain reflecting on their incapability to hope and believe in the better of themselves.

Everyday when I wake up I have endless doubts but every night when I go to sleep I have recover my Faith in me, in others…Everyday I search through the Zone of my Life and every night I stand at the doorstep of the Room
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briancham199425 September 2021
While Tartovsky is well known for his slow pacing and poetic cinematographic lingering, this film takes his style to an unnecessary extreme. I appreciated Solaris but it wasn't done very well here. For sure, there are moments of reflection and deep visual symbolism but most of the time I was just watching pensive faces reacting to nothing at all, or repeated pleas from the stalker to listen to his instructions. There was a decent attempt at expressing some deep messages but these could have been done in a much more succinct runtime without any loss of meaning or effect: We all need some magic in the world, we don't always know what we truly want or need, we will never truly be satisfied with our searching, and so on. The uniquely spooky cinematographic and aural atmosphere deserve commendation but this didn't make up for the truly dreadful pace.
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Master's Failure
Galina_movie_fan22 March 2004
First of all I want to say that Tarkovsky is one of my favorite directors of all time. His Zerkalo and Andrey Rublyov are among the Best films ever made and I can not even say which one I consider better - they just go together in my mind as two masterpieces - heights of such light, purity and power that they can not be surpassed even by the Master himself. So, you can see, I am not afraid of Tarkovsky's complex poetic symbolism, his seemingly slow camera or the questions that he often leaves unanswered.

With this said,

I do not like Stalker and even more, I believe it was Tarakovsky's failure even though, the master's failure has got all signs of his greatness - stunning black and white cinematography, debates among the characters about meaning of life and nature of one's deepest desires, the journey into "the zone" to the magic room that is one of the finest dream -like pieces ever seen on the screen. But somewhere among all these fine pieces something very important is missing. Maybe the problem is with the main character of the film, the nameless Stalker who in a film is such a saintly, suffering, and I dare say pompous figure that I just can not care about him very much.

***Spoilers for the book "Roadside Picnic"

In the original book "Roadside Picnic" by Strugatsky Brothers on which the film is loosely based the stalker had a name, Roderick (Red) Schuhart. He was not a saint; he was a human being with a lot of weaknesses. Like a Stalker in the film, Red had inhuman intuition and luck that had helped him to survive the multiple trips to the Zone. But the Zone caught up with him in the end, and he was playing the ultimate price watching how his only child who was born as a beautiful and joyful girl was turning into the strange and mute animal. That was why Red decided to make the last trip to the Zone and find the legendary Golden Sphere (the Room in the film) that could grant any wish. Red knew he could not go alone because just when you thought that you reached the Sphere there was an ultimate trap that could only be fed by a human being. Such great and desperate was Red's desire to get his daughter back that he took with him an innocent young man, teenager really, perfectly knowing that that man will never return from the Zone. The Stalker of the film KNOWS what other people's deepest and hidden desires could be, in the book, Red found out that after he finally reached the Sphere, he did not know what and how to ask; his only hope was that the magic tool would reach inside his soul and find that his soul was still alive and bleeding from pain and begging for his daughter and for forgiveness. I found the last chapter of the book much more interesting, deeper, and tragic than all the debates among the characters and monologues of the Stalker and his wife in the film.

***End for the book's spoilers

Tarkovsky took only the final chapter of the book and used it for the film. He himself along with the Strugatsky Brothers had rewritten the screenplay many times until he was satisfied with it. Before I started to write this post, I found the screenplay on line and read it just to refresh the film in my memory. I was surprised how short and dynamic the screenplay was. I do not understand how with a screenplay like that and with all its beauty the film turned to be remote, passionless, extremely long and (please forgive me all the fans) boring. I love every minute of 205 Andrey Rublyov's minutes and I would beg for more. I treasure every moment of 108-minutes long Zerkalo, and I have seen it five times. But Stalker, IMO, is the Master's weakest work. I would not mind if it was much shorter than its extremely difficult 169 minutes.
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A unique visionary film
brunojunior28 June 2004
Tarkovsky's direction for this film is nearly flawless.

The film mainly focuses on three characters and their basic goodness of each other. The photographic colors are brilliantly choreographed to the mood of character and viewer. The visionary landscapes are mesmerizing beautiful.

The survival techniques the characters in the film achieve is unlike anything I've seen in film. Much like Kubrick in terms of directive style and character study, Tarkovsky puts the viewer in a kaleidoscopic landscape of mood and emotion. No clichés here though. I have not read the story which the movie is based upon, but from what I understand the characters in the film all develop a healing understanding of each other.

That is when you know [as a viewer] that you will watch something unique and

exceptional. If you are into complex, psychological science fiction in the same vain of say {The Andromeda Strain, Solaris, 2001:a space odyssey} than you shall enjoy "Stalker".
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