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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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Gloomy, depressing, and way overlong
Leofwine_draca2 May 2017
Warning: Spoilers
STALKER is another long-winded movie from Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky, this time a science fiction yarn in the same guise as SOLARIS. The setting is a post-apocalyptic landscape in which a couple of characters work their way through a devastated world looking for answers in a place known as the 'alien zone' which may contain extraterrestrial life. The best part of the movie is the authentic setting; word has it that the genuinely radioactive Estonian locations resulted in the early deaths of a number of the crew members, not least the director himself.

Sadly, STALKER is one of those films that goes on interminably and as a mood piece this just doesn't hold the attention. Had Tarkovsky made the running time more reasonable (i.e. under half what it is) it might have been more interesting, but as it stands it's just an endless ramble through the wilderness with few answers at the end. I found it gloomy and depressing, not to mention sleep-inducing.
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long, surreal and Russian
SnoopyStyle21 February 2016
The movie starts in black and white. The Zone has been cordoned off by the military and police. It's an area affected by something unknown or aliens or a meteor. Within the Zone lies a Room where wishes are granted. The Stalker is a man with special attributes who guides others into the room. His wife pleads for him to stop. He leads the Writer and the Professor into the Zone. The movie gains its colors after crossing the police blockage. The questioning Writer wants to regain his inspiration. The Professor is quiet and more concerned about his backpack.

This is for people who love reading long, depressing, poetic Russian novels. The premise is very fascinating but it is way too slow and too long for me. I lost interest after the movie gains its colors and the three characters wonder forever in the Zone. It's a lot of long quiet scenes and dialog that doesn't interest me. It takes too long to get to the Room. I guess it is suppose to transmit the time and difficulty of the journey but I find it repetitive. I need it to have a much tighter middle.
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a state of reality
Kirpianuscus5 December 2016
a state more than a place. a space of truth. and its bitter price. the fascination of a trip in the traces of self define. words as stones. looks as veils to cover the reality. the girl. and the ash of desires, temptations, fears , memory, humanity limits and pride. at first sigh, only Tarkovski. as a king and magician and master . in fact, like each film made by this great director,Stalker is the film of the viewer. like a mirror. like a large cage. like a dialogue with himself. and this change everything. and this does the film more than a masterpiece. maybe a cathedral. or a tower. or a room in the lights and shadows of a presence escaping to any definition. because it is only a confession. about small things, about faith, about purposes, about hope. and the Christianity as echo.
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Not among Tarkovsky's worst or best
Horst_In_Translation2 September 2019
Warning: Spoilers
And if you put together this review with the amount of stars out of ten I give this film, you probably already know what my opinion is on Tarkovsky. He is a definite contender for being the most divisive filmmaker from all the highly successful ones. Some love his approach, others find it incredibly boring and for them it is not doing much. I am afraid I count among the latter. This Soviet movie in the Russian language (yep! don't mistake it for a modern mediocre thriller that may have Jennifer Lopez, mother of three, being attacked by a lovesick psychopath) that has its 40th anniversary this year is not gonna change anything about that. Like basically all other Tarkovsky works, it is incredibly long at over 2.5 hours and it feels that way I must say.

I can't say too much about the cast here. Maybe Russian movie fans are more familiar with them. So let's talk a bit about the film itself. I would say that in terms of style and visual aspects, it is not a bad movie, so perhaps a bit on the style over substance side. I did like the beginning more than almost everything afterwards. This yellow-themed dangerous situation there with the three men being on the run and their hunters (symbolized by the motorbike rider) not far behind had a little claustrophobic atmosphere to it and I enjoyed that. After 40 minutes or so, there is quite a break thematically and this is mostly seen through color really entering the picture as the trio of "heroes" including Bill Nighy and especially Woody Harrelson Soviet lookalikes is somewhere in green deserted no man's land and all the danger and threats now mostly come from themselves towards each other as the group mentality is put to the test on several occasions. But there are other dangers too still like people being worried about mines etc. Let's keep in mind (no pun intended) that this movie is set during the days of big political/military turmoil. We have a lot of talk about "the Zone" and unfortunately as much as this is in the center of the film, it never really won me over as a crucial place or maybe even the big defining background of the movie, not just locally, but also in terms of political turmoil. I still think this part in the green was maybe when the movie was at its best, but far from great too, just because mostly everything else was so forgettable.

As the trio progresses on the road to their target location, further obstacles arise. On one occasion, one of the characters is seemingly killed (I thought turned into a bird even) in a desert-like location, but not much later he reappears in what I would not exactly call the most realistic turn of events. Oh well. It is still a science fiction movie and this was probably, at least with elements, genre-wise my favorite from Tarkovsky, but I still would have liked better explanations on some occasions. This is also a problem I have with the filmmaker in general, not just here. He dives so deep into metaphors and symbolisms all the time that it feels he almost forgets to narrate a convincing story that could have you interested, let alone at the edge of your seat, and with these running times, honestly it is pretty crucial. It feels as if he implies that everybody in the audience is immediately fully aware of the characters and cares for what happens to them, but there is no profound presentation who they are and most of all why would we be interested in and care for them.

Now when the gang eventually arrives where they wanted to get (or thought they wanted to get), it is all as bleak and unspectacular as it was all the time before. There is not really a sense of arrival, a sense of mission completed to it all, which honestly would have surprised me anyway. It would have gone against the style and tone of this movie, but it still could have been nice for a change. The way things actually turn out, everybody feels just as lost and on their own as they were during their journey and before that if not more. The frame with the woman from the life of one key character, who appears early on and very late too, is not bad, but also not too memorable. However, the ending with the child that has telepathic abilities was nice and even if what it did was a bit repetitive already, my eyes were glued to the screen there. Again though the problem is that there is no path leading us at all to this character and the gift. So overall, it just isn't my preferred choice of movies I must say. Then again, that is a subjective approach. If you like Tarkovsky, and I was genuinely surprised constantly how full the theaters were for his movie retrospective, then you will maybe appreciate this one here too. After all, it is among his highest rated here on imdb and also among his most famous, even if there is no way I can understand why it sits comfortably in the imdb top250. I also don't think it is a film that gets much better on rewatch. Don't watch.
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Without a Clue, An Intriguing and Metaphoric Movie Very Difficult To Be Understood
claudio_carvalho3 August 2004
In a not specified time, there is a place called `The Zone', surrounded by the surveillance and protection of armed guards and forbidden to be visited. Its unknown origin is attributed to meteorites or aliens. Only some men, called `Stalkers', are able to successfully trespass its borders and reach a place in its inner called `The Room', where all the secrets and innermost hopes and wishes come true. A writer, who lost his skills, and a mysterious scientist are guided by a Stalker, when the journey begins. Today I have just seen `Stalker' for the first time. I found it intriguing, but unfortunately I have not really understood its essence. I became very disappointed, but after glancing other IMDB users reviews and the message board, I realized that there are indeed much more questions than explanations. Further, I found this story too much hermetic and boring for my taste and the images are not very clear in the old Brazilian VHS. I do not have much experience with Andrei Tarkovsky movies, therefore I intend to read some reviews, maybe see `Stalker' again and then I may write my own review. I do not want to be polemic, but I believe that a movie that needs additional reading or discussion to be understood has some problem in its development. My vote is seven.

Title (Brazil): `Stalker'
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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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Bizarre Russian Science Fiction
gavin694215 July 2013
A guide known as The Stalker (Alexander Kaidanovsky) leads two men, "the Writer" (Anatoly Solonitsyn) and "the Professor" (Nikolai Grinko), through an area known as the Zone to find a room that grants wishes.

Can you believe the film contains 142 shots in 163 minutes, with an average shot length of more than one minute and many shots lasting for more than four minutes. There is no question that the camera lingers, and no surprise that the picture is considered to be slow by many people (early audiences and critics definitely thought so).

Almost all of the scenes not set in the Zone are in a high-contrast brown monochrome. What does this mean? That is for you to decide, but it does add an element of fantasy to the picture.

The director reportedly said, "I am only interested in the views of two people: one is called Bresson and one called Bergman." Yes, folks, this is art and not entertainment. If you happen to be entertained, that is even better.
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somewhere between "No Exit" and "Down by Law"
lee_eisenberg7 January 2017
Andrei Tarkovsky is widely understood to be one of the most important directors in the history of cinema. His works often focus on metaphysical and philosophical topics. "Stalker" is an example. At first the movie reminded me of Jean-Paul Sartre's existentialist play "No Exit" (about a bunch of people trapped in an existential hell), as the Stalker, Writer and Professor had trouble escaping the blockaded region of the Zone. As the protagonists headed for the heart of the Zone, the movie began to remind me of Jim Jarmusch's "Down by Law", about three men who escape jail and wander through rural Louisiana. Once the protagonists reach the Room, the movie really takes off.

It's worth noting that this is not a movie for those who are used to action flicks. It contains long shots and goes long periods without dialogue. If you're going to watch this movie, you'd better have a long attention span. This holds true for the other Tarkovsky movies that I've seen. That's better, in my opinion. The last thing that we need is another movie contributing to ADHD.

If I were going to postulate the gist of the movie, I would say that we have to seek our own answers for the meanings of our lives. These men go on an expedition hoping to have their innermost desires fulfilled, only to find that the place has trash everywhere. Maybe our innermost desires have to come from us directly, as opposed to some esoteric entity.

Maybe that's just me. Whatever the gist is, "Stalker" is a great movie. One of the all-time high points of cinema, like "Citizen Kane" and "Dr. Strangelove". Definitely see it.
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jboothmillard22 February 2015
Warning: Spoilers
I remembered seeing the iconic image of the man with thorns on his head in the book of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, this Russian film was rated well by critics as well, so I hoped it was deserved as an addition, directed by Andrei Tarkovsky (Andrei Rublev, Solaris, The Mirror). Basically near a grey and unnamed city is "The Zone", an alien place surrounded by barbed wire and guarded by soldiers, this forbidden and deserted wilderness has all sorts of strange things going on, including things moving about, but the place apparently brings the ability to fulfil people's innermost desires. A man called Stalker (Aleksandr Kaydanovskiy), over the objections of his wife, leaves early in the morning, leaving the wife with their disabled daughter, to meet with two men. He is one of only a handful of people that has the mental gift, and risks imprisonment, leading people into the Zone, taking them to "The Room", the place where secret hopes of someone could come true. The two men are known as The Writer (Anatoly Solonitsyn), who has a burned out popular career, is cynical and questions his talent, and the Professor (Nikolai Grinko), a quiet scientist concerned more about his knapsack than the actual journey. They have both agreed to put their fate in the hands of the Stalker who guides them into the Zone, going across the various landscapes and obstacles in their way, but to approach the Room they must be indirect, it is drawing near that the rules for them change when the Stalker is facing his own crisis. Alisa Freyndlikh as Zhena Stalkera, Stalker's wife and Natalya Abramova as Marta, Stalker's daughter. The cast are fine, the use of colour, going from muted sepia colour in the real world into bright colour for the Zone world is clever, there is certainly a sense of paranoia and a chilling atmosphere throughout, it does I suppose make you question one's own beliefs and values, it may be very strange and not easy to follow, but it is an interesting science-fiction drama. Good!
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the most erebral' science-fiction film ever made, but also one of the rarest to challenge perceptions and stimulate the senses
Quinoa198416 March 2007
Stalker is, based on the amount of science-fiction films I have seen yet, or at least those that could be considered true to whatever can be considered part of the genre, maybe the talkiest, the one with the least amount of any kind of action, and one that moves at a pace that might make Godard a little squirmy in his seat. These however are all positives for director Andrei Tarkovsky's goals with what could be considered a masterpiece, to use the term once again. It's a dense film, but within this density layers of interest that many of today's science-fiction films wouldn't even think to consider much less attempt are present and alive.

Its visual prowess is another big piece of what makes Stalker such a triumph. Never do we get cuts too quick or shots that go by in the blink of an eye, far from it. Tarkovsky is putting the audience through long shots, as in surpassing five minutes, give or take a minute, and the craft is hypnotic; he uses his skills very simply in pans and tilts and subtle zoom-ins and outs, and there's even a few shots, like the pan up in close-up over the un-real/real objects in the river with metaphorical significance leading to the hand, that are some of the most haunting in all of cinema.

It's not an easy trip through what is actually a very simple premise: a stalker, Aleksandr Kajdanovsky, is going to take a writer and a philosopher through the dangerous terrain to the zone, where anything innermost in said person can be realized. Aside from the surpassing of the guarded gates into the entrance, where there are gun-shots and the like, Tarkovsky isn't interested in "action" things happening, but themes expressed squarely through narrow, representative characters and mood. This mood is one that is wrong if looking at the back of the video box, which compares the ambiance and realm of science fiction to that of Blade Runner.

In the sense of it breaking clichés, sure, it's similar, but that's really all on a shallow level. Tarkovsky's design for the picture is tantamount to being hyper stylized, but never too noticeable in the sense of it looking 'fake'. There may be a moment or two where the zone does look like a ZONE from a not-quite nuclear fall-out, like the one room with sandy dunes on the floor. But it's also right out of Russia, with industry and decay of the period all in direct view. The hopelessness is conveyed not just through the humorlessness of the characters, but in the zone itself, which looks like it's been not constructed completely by the crew.

I was originally spurned on to see it not only because of seeing Tarkovsky's Solaris and Andrei Rublev- the former also an experimental feat of intelligent, emotionally complex sci-fi- but because of a couple of clips featured in the documentary The Pervert's Guide to Cinema. In it, Zizek uses Stalker to describe how there can be a world, or a form of a world, where the ideal of Godlessness is given full form into a world without belief, and where decay and industrialization are all there can be seen. But then there is also the 'Zone', which is also in line with the idea of there being order, of hope, yet also the total despair in getting something otherworldly. Does the Zone need human beings as much as human beings need the zone?

Questions like these, as well as what it means to be a creator of art, as the writer goes to lengths describing, in a post-apocalyptic environment, or what it is to actually enter into an alien construct, or what may be an alien construct, as what may be illusion is stronger than that becoming a reality, or what the stalker has in responsibility to himself, others, and humanity at large, come up repeatedly. So, at the least, Stalker can't be considered as a work without a thought process to it. Quite the contrary, there's even a poetry to all of the thoughts and visuals that keep coming up, be they through the conversations on the way to the Zone, or in that "climax" on the precipice of the "Room" where the potential of destruction comes at a heavy price following all that's happened.

Tarkovsky even tops himself from Solaris by making human need and suffering and, as a human construct, the fantastical imaginings of what is "out there" as here, paramount and affecting. Fear, greed and ego, and a desire for some minor level of any sense of peace through whatever medium is available, is what Tarkovsky suggests and prods, but never outright answers; it comes as a great shock and relief at the end, when the boy Monkey shows an unusual 'moment' at the table.

This being said, Stalker won't be for everyone, surely not the Star Wars geeks looking for pomp and circumstance against motifs out of the old West. It might even feel too long and plodding by those who put 2001 at the top of their favorite movie lists. But it also has an astonishing appeal to those who may gravitate to it, where ideas and scenery, reflections on society and a specific take on a dark alternate future, get at a very high level of sophistication and artistry.
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Tarkovsky's Finest Work
sunwarrior1325 October 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker, an allegorical science fiction film like his earlier Solaris, was adapted from the novel Picnic by the Roadside by brothers Boris Strugatsky and Arkady Strugatsky.This science fiction depicts an expedition led by the Stalker to bring his two clients to a site known as the Zone, which has the supposed potential to fulfill a person's innermost desires.It features Alexander Kaidanovsky,Anatoli Solonitsyn and Nikolai Grinko. The title of the film, which is the same in Russian and English, is derived from the English word to stalk in the long-standing meaning of approaching furtively, much like a hunter. In the film a stalker is a professional guide to the zone, someone who crosses the border into the forbidden zone with a specific goal.

The film follows three men namely:the Scientist, the Writer and the Stalker as they travel through a mysterious and forbidden territory in the Russian wilderness called the "Zone." In the Zone, nothing is what it seems. Objects change places, the landscape shifts and rearranges itself. It seems as if an unknown intelligence is actively thwarting any attempt to penetrate its borders. In the Zone, there is said to be a bunker, and in the bunker: a magical room which has the power to make wishes come true. The Stalker is the hired guide for the journey who has, through repeated visits to the Zone, become accustomed to its complex traps, pitfalls, and subtle distortions. Only by following his lead can the Writer and the Scientist make it alive to the bunker and the room. As the men travel farther into the Zone, they realize it may take something more than just determination to succeed: it may actually take faith. Increasingly unsure of their deepest desires, they confront the room wondering if they can, in the end, take responsibility for the fulfillment of their own wishes.

Stalker is a complex, oblique parable that draws unforgettable images and philosophical musings from its sci-fiction thriller setting. Challenging, provocative, and ultimately rewarding, it is a mind-bending experience that defies explanation. It is not an easy film, but almost certainly a great one.Like Tarkovsky's earlier and similarly enigmatic science fiction classic Solaris, this long, slow, meditative masterpiece demands patience and total attention; anyone accustomed to faster pacing is likely to abandon the nearly three-hour film before its first hour is over. On the other hand, those who approach this movie in a properly receptive frame of mind are likely to appreciate the film's seductive depth of theme and hypnotic imagery. Tarkovsky films their journey as a long odyssey, or religious pilgrimage, and center of The Zone is where each of these men hopes to find a kind of personal transcendence. Despite obvious parallels to The Wizard of Oz, Tarkovsky's film is devoid of special effects or any fantastical elements typically associated with science fiction or fantasy. Instead, Stalker makes astonishing use of sound and bleak-but-beautiful imagery to envelope the viewer into the eerie atmosphere of The Zone and the dank, colorless landscape that surrounds it. And while the film's glacial pacing may be off-putting to some viewers, there's no denying that Stalker has a mesmerizing power of its own, including a thought-provoking and highly debatable ending that propels the film to a higher level of meaning and significance. Visually unforgettable,this is possibly Tarkovsky's finest work.
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Ordered, Recalled
tedg27 March 2009
I value Tarkovsky so much that I have saved this film. Watching an important film for the first time is such a profound experience that one should pace oneself. Conceptual gluttony may not be a sin, but its unwise if you take film seriously. It provides yet stronger reasons to hang around.

I've saved this film for 30 years to watch for a special birthday, and opened it carefully. It did not disappoint. I recommend it to you as something worth saving. I think it is something best encountered after enough life to register — it surely does not surf energetic hope as most films do.

Some background, if you do not know Tarkovsky. I rate him as among the three filmmakers now dead who have influenced me. Recommendations at this level can only come from personal reports of the great voyage into the unknown and how the filmmaker has led one through dangerous, oracular terrain. It is what Tarkovsky does for me, as the most cinematic of the greats. And it is how this story is framed.

There are three men here: a scientist, a writer and the guide. The journey is abstract, as presented visually through the most hypnotizing environments you will ever touch. These are textured spaces, always strictly architectural and derived (by wear, use and penetration of the wild) from ordinary built structures.

The journey is presented in a way that can be seen as a general Godot-inspired existential drift. On reading observations from others, even serious thinkers, this seems to be how most people experience this. I would like you to consider a deeper experience.

Elsewhere, I heavily criticize movies that depict mathematical or artistic breakthroughs and they might as well be depicting a sporting success. "Beautiful Mind," "Good Will," and "Pi" come to mind. The problem is that actual search, actual conceptual risk — which is the idea in these movies — is fully cinematic, strongly shaped by internal narrative and highly visual in the sense of escaping the images of worn dreams. These movies miss the boat, probably because no one involved has been there.

Tarkovsky has, at least as a guide. He not only understands the angst of living in abstract webs of fluid risk, but knows the internal collaborative tension between the writer and the scientist, and between each and the outside world of reified happenstance, and also among all those and the edge of family and love. All of these we can literally see. It is an absolutely miraculous experience. Save it for when it can matter.

This is quite different than other Tarkovsky works I think. It is more removed from experience of life, more deliberately unrooted in the flesh. It transforms sex into rougher refinement of urge. It will be less accessible than, say, the meditations on the body and place of in "Nostalgia" and "Mirror," which themselves are apart from the even more open notion of self and nation (as religion) in "Andrei Rublov."

For this reason, I will advise working up to this because the biggest disaster would be for you to see this for the first time and not place yourself in it. Break yourself first.

My rule for rating a film 4 out of three is that no more than two per year and two from each filmmaker. Andrei has two others rated 4, which I think are essential. This is more powerful and personal than those, but consequently more elusive.

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
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Meandering Metaphysics
Theo Robertson9 January 2011
Andrei Tarkovsy's STALKER is one of these films whose reputation is entirely confined to that of Universiy level film studies . It's a film that remains unknown to people who visit multiplexes on a Friday night to watch the latest blockbuster from Hollywood and is rarely shown on network television . I think its only broadcast on British television was on Channel 4 in 1990 or 1991 . Nevertheless it was well regarded enough to make it in to the the lower reaches of the IMDb Top 250 for a couple of years but I'm rather puzzled as to why ? It's not a film produced for the masses which possibly sums the up inherent irony of communism

The story starts 20 years after a meteorite has landed on Earth and when people have started disappearing in the crash zone the authorities quarantine the area which is now referred to as " the Zone " . A trio of men sneak through the blockade determined to find out the secret of the Zone

This is communist science fiction based upon a story written by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky . Communist science fiction differs quite markedly from its Western counterpart by concentrating on metaphysics , man's relationship to the natural order rather than plot driven concepts . In many ways it's introspective humanism rather than mind expanding and imaginative . This type of story would appeal well to Tarkovsky since his volume of wok centres around elemental imagery such as water and wind . He is a film maker who is the archetypal auteur

The problem with all this is that it makes for a rather unengaging piece of cinema . If you're expecting to see aliens you'll be disappointed . There is an argument that science fiction doesn't need aliens in order to work and this is certainly true , think of the number of novels by people such as John Christopher that feature Earth shattering eco disasters for a premise . But if you had three men in Soviet Russia escaping in to a forbidden zone where they walk around discussing the human condition for three hours then you'd have the exact same story devoid of any science fiction heading . In short STALKER isn't really a science fiction film at all

At least the film sets out its stall right from the very beginning . We're treated to the type of camera work seen in films by luminaries as Bela Tarr where the camera moves about for several minutes without cutting . We don't actually get any dialogue until ten minutes in to the running time and if you're bored senseless by then then it's perhaps a good idea to watch something else because the pace doesn't really improve much

One of the comments on this page states that STALKER is " Like Last Of The Summer Wine set in Russia " and that's a very accurate description of the movie . It's composed of three philosophical men wandering about the countryside making profound statements on the nature of existence . You might rub your chin and nod in agreement but you might also have to rub your eyes in order to stay awake too
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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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Just don't
bombersflyup5 March 2018
Warning: Spoilers
My only guess is that this is some form of torture and people are rating it high to perpetuate the torture onto others.

Starting with an annoying ten to fifteen minute opening sequence of people standing at a distance, then the camera moving slowly to a door, then a man lying in bed. The film's nothing more than three guys, who were all basically the same guy, walking, stopping and talking and repeat. I often didn't know who was speaking and I didn't want to know who was speaking. Nothing happens for three hours and it's about nothing. The scene where the guys get into the so called zone area, was mildly interesting. It isn't the worst film I've ever seen, because it isn't vulgar or anything, but it's pretty close. Walk forward, do something, something happen were my continuous thoughts. One of my favourite movies takes place in one room, so I don't need action to be engaged, but this simply has no substance.
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must see it !
Vincentiu26 June 2012
it is only word. only review. because it is tale of each viewer. and, the search of description, the exploration of details, images or words is out of sense. a masterpiece, a great work of unique director.. yes, it is truth. but like a poem, it is result of emotions, piece of a way to use it as key for the time after its end. a key who is more than facts of making near Tallin. a key who may be more than expression of appreciation. the key of personal Zona and need of a stalker. a key of a girl looks and confession of a wife. a key in skin of secret powerful desire. or only a poem after survive in a tunnel. Stalker is last word of Tarkovski. after Ivan Childhood and Andrey Rubliov, the last line. the crumbs of silence. the silhouettes of three men near a dog from another word. Stalker is a lesson. about fundamental small things. Stalker is a pray. and memories from a room in which desire is yourself.
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lasttimeisaw6 August 2013
My third Tarkovsky's film (after SOLARIS 1972, 8/10 and NOSTALGHIA 1983, 8/10), STALKER is a startling eye-opener, set in a sordid clanking land of rural Soviet Union, after the falling of a meteorite, an enigmatic area "The Zone" has emerged, inside there is a room can grant incomers' innermost wishes, but cordoned by the government with armies, only with the guidance of so called "stalkers", one can reach the room. So the expedition involves one stalker and his two clients, a writer and a professor, one begs for inspiration and the other conceals an ulterior motive.

As one can predict, the film is teeming with Tarkovsky's trademark static/panning long shots, mesmerizing and conjuring up a recondite sense of metaphysics, for example, a steady long shot of various items in the water finishes with the focus on a human hand, sometimes it's baffling, as viewers (as well as the two clients) have been warned numerous times by the stalker, the place is precarious, many a predecessor dies mysteriously in the zone, among a large chunk of the time Tarkovsky successfully maintains the stifling suspense to tally with the seedy locale, the movement is painstakingly strung out, so the audiences cannot shun the unknown danger but only succumb to a thorough wallow in the wasteland. Tarkovsky never resort to cheap horror to give vent to excitement or relief, instead, he utilizes a man-made natural surrounding to trap oneself in, and let our own inside demon out to divulge a sense of thrill and frisson.

I don't speak Russian, so it probably hinders my apprehension of the dialog, only if the English interpretation could be better, nevertheless, STALKER seems bit chattier than Tarkovsky's other works, their debate ranges from the philosophy of human beings' psychological trials and tribulations, the socio-political radicalism to the awe and frustration towards the mystery and miracles plus the unselfishness of art, etc. I may not be able to fully cover all the implications from the first viewing, but one can not deny here the luxuriant imagery is louder than words at any rate.

The cast is also memorable, the monochrome close-ups endow each character with a pictorial impact of their own resolution, the friend-or-foe association motivates the storytelling and excellently penetrates the harmony of the trio thus overshoots viewers' expectation.

Myself find the supernatural elements have been fascinatingly deployed in this film, scattering into many inscrutable shots, sometimes only in a jiffy and most strikingly is the ending, with the daughter of the stalker, mind-controls still objects until one glass falls on the ground but the sound is drowned by the strident train running nearby, which ultimately veils the film with a stratum of mystique that qualifies Tarkovsky as one of the most unique and essential filmmaker of all time!
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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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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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gbill-7487730 June 2018
Warning: Spoilers
A movie of uncommon depth, 'Stalker' is poetic, philosophical, and brooding - and certainly not standard science fiction fare. In it, a guide (a 'stalker', Aleksandr Kaydanovskiy) leads a writer (Aleksandr Kaydanovskiy) and a physics professor (Nikolai Grinko) through a mysterious area of devastation known as 'The Zone', in search of 'The Room', which holds the promise of making their deepest desires come true. The Zone is said to hold mortal dangers to those within it, and is also reactive to their presence, shifting in unpredictable ways. The film is highly allegorical though, and while the trio face murky subterranean horrors, they don't seem to be of the alien kind, but within the mind instead, those associated with the existential condition, and living in a modern world under a totalitarian regime. In this the film seems to deviate, and in more explicitly dark, introspective ways, from the original novel by the Strugatsky brothers (who as an aside, wrote some fantastic fiction aside from 'Roadside Picnic' - check out 'The Doomed City', 'Definitely Maybe', and 'The Dead Mountaineer's Inn' among others).

The film is Kafkaesque, and it's also slow and ponderous, too much so for some viewers. I found that the pace and visuals of devastation to be meaningful, underscoring the bleakness of their lives, and allowing for the quiet of deeper thought. The dialogue is fantastic throughout the movie, and clearly shows the struggle of the intelligentsia in this 'brave new world' of Communism. The writer observes that to be effective, he must be tormented and unsure of himself, that is, the moment he thinks he's a genius and has it made, he's no longer a great writer. Furthermore, "It's impossible to write, thinking all the time of success or failure. But if no one is going to read me in one hundred years, why the hell should I write at all?" He also describes being put through the wringer, at first thinking he will change the world with his words, and then finding out that the world has changed him, and will soon forget him, channeling the angst of Russian authors from Dostoevsky to Grossman. The physicist, on the other hand, fears being denounced by a fellow scientist, accused of disloyalty to the Party for personal reasons, which was a very real problem under Stalin. He wants to destroy the Room, recognizing that it will eventually lead to disaster in the form of absolute power granted to some lunatic, and how true this is. Meanwhile, the stalker is severely disillusioned by the cynicism and impotence of these intellectuals.

There are few actors, but each turns in a soulful performance, including the three leads but also the stalker's wife (Alisa Freyndlikh) - check out her late scene speaking to the camera, and while emotional, getting around to lighting a cigarette. The scene where the stalker walks with her through a stark, desolated landscape, with their legless daughter on his shoulders, nuclear reactors in the background, and music playing that's reminiscent of Pink Floyd, is very powerful, and stuck with me.

In my view, The Zone and the journey to get to it simply represents life in the USSR - a wasteland in the literal and symbolic sense, one with hidden dangers everywhere, and whose rules defy logic, and may change in an instant. One needn't look to extraterrestrials to have created such a place. The trio never enter The Room, but do you really believe it exists? A room where all one's wishes come true, while living under a soul-crushing totalitarian regime? It's a pipe dream. This journey to Oz is not along a yellow brick road, but through a nuclear hellscape.

And yet, there is hope, and a message of perseverance. Tarkovsky gives us the Buddhist concept that those that are soft and flexible will survive, whereas that which is hard and strong is close to breaking, and dying. "When a man is just born, he is weak and flexible. When he dies, he is hard and insensitive. When a tree is growing, it's tender and pliant. But when it's dry and hard, it dies. Hardness and strength are death's companions. Pliancy and weakness are expressions of the freshness of being. Because what has hardened will never win." In the little girl's paranormal capabilities following her reading Tyutchev's poem on love at the end, I also see a message of transcendence, that the youth of tomorrow will be capable of things that can't be conceived of today. Can miracles still exist, and will the Russian people someday be free? Powerful.

A few more quotes: On art: "But imagine some antique pot displayed in a museum. It was used at its time as a receptacle of food leftovers, but now it's an object of universal admiration for its laconic pattern and unique form. Everyone goes oh! and ah! And suddenly it turns out that it's not antique at all, that some joker has palmed it off on the archeologists just for fun. Strange as it may seem, the admiration dies off. Those connoisseurs..."

On music, and meaning: "You were talking recently about the meaning of our life, of the unselfishness of art. Take music, for instance. Less than anything else, it is connected to reality, or if connected at all, it's done mechanically, not by way of ideas, just by a sheer sound, devoid of any associations. And yet, music, as if by some miracle, gets through to our heart. What is it that resonates in us in response to noise brought to harmony, making it the source of the greatest delight which stuns us and brings us together? Why is all this necessary? And above all, for whom? You'll reply: 'For no one and no reason.' No. I doubt that. For everything in the final reckoning has a meaning. A meaning and a reason."

On love, the poem 'Dull Flame of Desire' by Fyodor Tyutchev: "I love those eyes of yours, my friend, Their sparkling, flashing, fiery wonder; When suddenly those lids ascend, Then lightning rips the sky asunder; You swiftly glance, and there's an end; There's greater charm, though, to admire When lowered are those eyes divine In moment's kissed by passion's fire; When through the downcast lashes shine The smoldering embers of desire..."

Lastly, reflecting a sense of gratitude, but needing more, by Arseny Tarkovsky, father of the director. "Now the summer is passed, It might never have been; It is warm in the sun, But it isn't enough;

All that I could attain, Like a five-fingered leaf, Fell straight into my hand, But it isn't enough;

Neither evil nor good Has yet vanished in vain; It all burned and was light, But it isn't enough;

Life has been like a shield And has offered protection; I have been very lucky, But it isn't enough;

The leaves were not burned, The boughs were not broken; The day shines like glass, But it isn't enough.
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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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Andrei Tarkovsky's Magnum Opus
CinemaClown3 September 2020
A film of profound depth & mesmerising beauty, Stalker is intriguing, arresting & powerfully captivating from start to finish, and is one of the most dazzling works of science-fiction that overwhelms the senses with its visual & aural elements, and offers an experience that's as haunting as it is hypnotic and as revelatory as it is mysterious.

Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky (Andrei Rublev & Solaris), the premise is shrouded in secrecy that advances the narrative without unveiling itself and what makes it so gripping is the mystery surrounding the Zone. There's an alluring pull & unnerving fear at play here that keeps the interest & excitement alive and it's what makes all the difference this time around.

We are only given as much info about the Zone as is enough to keep the plot going, for the film's real aim is to explore the personalities of its trio of protagonists. Through their philosophical musings & arguments, the film addresses its spiritual, existential & metaphysical themes which allows for added introspection, plus it also gets vital assistance from its surreal imagery.

The quiet scenery, dilapidated set pieces & strangeness of the entire location only add to the mystique of the forbidden area while fluid movements of the camera, long unbroken takes, distorted image & audio, and a palpable sense of danger envelop the journey with a heightened mood & uncertainty. Performances are top-notch from the acting trio, and its 161 mins runtime is rarely felt.

Overall, Stalker presents director Andrei Tarkovsky at the top of his game, and is far more accessible, engrossing & immersive than its plot summary will have you believe. Arguably the best film of Tarkovsky's career and inarguably my favourite of his, this rich, riveting & rewarding odyssey into the human consciousness is an essential, illuminating & breathtaking art piece that comes highly recommended.
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An experience not a movie
A_Different_Drummer29 December 2020
The eternal struggle between Free Will and Determinism, with a pit stop into the dark side of human nature. Terrible name, if you assume names are supposed to be a clue about the film to come. Contradictions abound. The visuals are so lush and authentic that you will want to take a bath after watching. The script however screams "stage play" in the grand tradition of Waiting for Godot. Unforgettable.
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jack_o_hasanov_imdb25 August 2021
The most interesting and beautiful Tarkovsky movie I've ever seen in my life. It has an interesting plot, I know it is an adaptation from the book, but Andrei interpreted it differently. Visually gorgeous.
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