Stalker (1979) Poster

(1979)

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10/10
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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10/10
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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10/10
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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10/10
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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10/10
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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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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10/10
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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10/10
Incredible
Marcus_Arenius26 September 2006
This movie is so strange. When i saw it, i realized that it was beautiful, that it was really good. but what really fascinates me is that some of the pictures and emotions i experienced in the movie keep reappearing afterwards. They haunt me so to say and i've got an incredible urge to watch the movie again. I've never experienced this so vividly and uncontrollable. Normally it's you who "summon" the pictures and feelings from the movie when you find cues (feelings/pictures) to it in your environment.

But this movie just keeps appearing without no obvious reason at all, filling you with feelings and beautiful images out of the blue.

See it and make up your own mind, could be i'm just on the verge of going mad after all ;)
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I disagree with popular criticism
greyone51502 August 2005
There have been some comments about this film's length. I am initially reminded of the scene in "Amedeus" where Mozart is told that his composition has "Too many notes" to this he replies "There are just enough..." This film offers great insight into the inner workings of not just the creative mind but the social will of mankind. If you are a viewer who enjoys film please disregard the whining of those who don't enjoy investigating thoroughly the possibility of a well thought out and concise perspective and please watch this masterpiece of modern film. The director leads the viewer through some profound aspects of humanity with such brilliance and in my opinion swiftness that to pass it by would be a shame.
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9/10
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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9/10
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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10/10
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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10/10
A short comment on the motifs and metaphors in this masterpiece
karnevil9-15 April 2004
This film is based on a SF novel by the Strugatki brothers, called "Picknick at the side of the road" (the translation might not be very accurate). In spite of the very simplistic narrative and dramatic structure (the whole action takes place only in one day and only in three locations: the stalker's home, the bar where they meet and the Zone), this is the masterpiece of Tarkovski and probably of the whole cinema ART.

You have to understand that this film is not sensational through its action, but through its metaphors and motifs. For example, the house motif, that appears in all his movies (The Sacrifice, Andrey Rubliov, Ivan's Childhood, Nostalghia etc.) also appears in Stalker, as everything that is outside the house. That means all the world that was destroyed and made hard to live in by man. Like the whole world, the stalkers home is ugly and sordid and like Rubliov he doesn't have a place to call home: "For me everywhere is a prison". Thats why he retires and finds his peace in the dangerous but alive and full of miracles space of the Zone. The Zone, sign of extraterrestrial or divine (apparently hostile) passage on earth, remains the only breathable place for man, because man hasn't reached to spoil it yet. The presence of the "wishing well" there says it all. The time in this film is as important, as in all tarkovskian art. The rhythm of the movie is given by the time that flows in it. The long frames express a relation between action and contemplation, between the meaning of that moment compared to the meaning of history. Although there are no retrospectives, the linear flow of the frames doesn't imply neither the subjective nor the objective characteristic of time. If you noticed, in the Zone they only travel in curves: "Here the shortest way is not the straight one" says the stalker to his companions. Anyway, these are few of the reasons why I think this is a masterpiece of the cinema art. For the ones that have rated this film less then "excellent" I would recommend that they see it again... and again... and again. "BUT, EVEN THEN THEY WILL NOT BELIEVE" - says the stalker at the end of his one day adventure. :) I would like to excuse myself for the spelling mistakes! (I'm from Romania :))
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10/10
The Zone and the Kingdom of Heaven
bogdancon-125 May 2006
Warning: Spoilers
There could be many things to say about Tarkovsky and his films. The most important (which could be found in many comments ) is that he does not offer us a very clear interpretation , leaving us to guess, wonder and question ourselves.

My interpretation of this film is that the whole trip to the Zone and to its core, the Room its a metaphor for the dangerous trip the human soul takes in searching the redemption and finally the Kingdom of Heaven. Stalker (like Jesus) is the one who shows the way to this kingdom - and there are some arguments to this idea. First, before entering the dangerous Zone, he lies on the grass thinking (or praying?), just like Jesus did in the garden of Ghetsimani before being crucified. Stalker is the one who shows who could reach the final point of this trip: not the good or the bad, but the desperate ones. Stalker is the one who fights with the professor (another metaphor for the rational and logical part of our minds) who wants to destroy the Zone, and also Stalker is the one who in the end laments over the lack of will people have to enter the Zone and to believe in its powers.

There are so many powerful shots in this film and I choose only some who really got to me: 1. the destroyed tanks in the first part of the trip are for me the communist weapons who tried to destroy the faith and the church in Russia and in the other communist countries. They failed. 2. the objects shown in the water when the 3 heroes sleep near it, the money, the weapon, the tiles under the water describe the precarity of our material world. 3.the water in the film, from the beginning until the end - it is pure poetry. 4. one dialog between the writer an Stalker, the writer is saying: "who needs your room, i don't need your room" - it reminded me the dialog between Ivan Karamazov and Alexei Karamazov, the first saying to the other: "I don't need your God"

But this is only one interpretation, and if it would be the only one, we would not be talking about a great great film.
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9/10
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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10/10
Don't "watch" -- Experience
wynalter-14 November 2006
Other reviewers have covered important points, but the essential quality of this film has only been danced around by a few.

'Stalker' is not to be watched, it is to be experienced. Those who find it too long or boring are standing outside the experience, looking on. Stalker is like an ancient spiritual or healing ritual. It offers you the opportunity to enter into the process and by joining in at each step, allowing the carefully crafted pacing to work on you, come to a point of transformation.

Each person has a different understanding of this film because what's in the Room is different for each of us. Every one of us has a deepest wish, usually unconscious, around which our entire life revolves. It drives all our decisions and relationships with people, things, society. And as the film makes clear, our goading wish is quite often not what we think it is - and not what we want it to be.

Entered into in the right way, this film can bring you to a new understanding of yourself. You may learn something you wish you hadn't. That's what happened for me... but I'd rather know. Others may choose differently. Others may choose not to even enter the journey into their personal Zone, in which case this film will seem long and boring, like someone else's dream.

Experiencing this film was a pivotal point in my life. It profoundly changed me. Like ancient rituals, this is what art - real art - is supposed to do, and Tarkovsky is the greatest master.

If anyone would like to discuss this film with me, please email.
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10/10
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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2/10
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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10/10
Whats with the reviews for this film????
jam4579 April 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Reading the reviews on IMDb has cemented what I have always felt about this film and about art in general. It is not always about a "product" that sums things up in a tidy sentence or a two hour film.

It is possible to criticize this film based on the conventions of the medium, but thats besides the point. Sure the stalker is the only fleshed out character, but the writer and the scientist are not even supposed to be characters to begin with. I think its fairly obvious they are archetypes that represent a conflict. Some people have said that the science versus religion thing is tired, this is missing the point completely!!!! Its the absurdity of trying to reduce any conflict to a duality to begin with.

The scene where we observe them sitting together makes it all very clear. We are observing them from the very room itself, where our innermost desires are laid bare and revealed. With this insight we can see that there is no duality to begin with, but only different ways to strive towards an understanding, the characters are joined together, their separation dissolves.

Someone mentioned that this film is "straining for deepness, and many a viewer will constantly feel this strain." They seemed a little confused because most films strain for this, as do most people!!!!! A successful film will always have this strain because that is part of our existence. Stalker evokes that yearning and allows us to feel it, and that is one of its best qualities I think. To actual visually embody the yearning for meaning, thats what A.T. has done here.

Stalker vs. Solaris: Another point of contention on IMDb, Most people seem to like a Solaris more...all I will say is this: Solaris is much more obvious and much more straightforward. I guess people find it easier, but in its supposed "humanism" its actually quite sterile, its clean. It presents human problems but through a haze of "greatness" that you will find with a lot of art. Its filmed from a further distance is what I am trying to say.

Stalker is the down and dirty, the swamp, the overgrowth, insects, water, rotting, rust. Its a much more dynamic world, just like our striving is much more dynamic than duality. Its dark, confusing, musty, a little frightening, but extremely beautiful.

I would like to mention the use of the word pretentious. If you have you used the word pretentious in your review please read a dictionary and understand a word before you use it. That word is used constantly to instantly demonize something. It is the equivalent of calling someone an anti-semite. It is loaded and works against serious discussion and observation.

THIS FILM IS NOT PRETENTIOUS BECAUSE IT DOES NOT ATTEMPT TO IMPRESS OR HOLD ANY GREAT IMPORTANCE!!!!!!! It just exists as it does and its people afterwords that attach importance to it. A.T. refused to ever state clearly what this film is about. So you can discount everything that I just said and anyone else said about it. Like life, like existence itself there is no clear meaning.
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1/10
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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1/10
Slow, Highly Overrated, Interreting, and Disappointing
nutsy21 October 2003
Let me start by saying that the bizarre atmosphere created in this picture is one of the most fascinating of anything I've seen in science-fiction. The debates between the characters are intriguing. The journey into "the zone" is one of the finest dream pieces I've ever seen on film. The problem is that these parts cannot save the whole. STALKER contains far too many mood sequences in which the plot takes a break and poetry takes over. The film's symbolism is all glaringly obvious and can't justify the monstrously bad pacing. The ending is also a major let-down. What the hell happened? Tarkovsky started his carreer with brilliant promise. Then it all went to hell with SOLARIS. This is better (in spots) than SOLARIS, but not much better. The story could have been told more effectively in the space of 85, just over half its running time. I usually enjoy long movies but this one was death due to pacing and an overdependence on "meaning." Skip this and see ANDREI ROUBLEV instead.
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1/10
Talker
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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3/10
Trite
gorgeous_blackman7 August 2006
Don't be ashamed to dislike this film. Don't be ashamed to call it slow. I like many slow films--to complain that something is slow is not a sign necessarily of stupidity or impatience. I've read the Bible, for example. Now THAT is slow. But it's also GOOD. And that's the problem with this film: it is slow AND bad. I suspect that this is what people who call it slow are really complaining of. The "philosophy" or "meditation" of the characters in this film is trite and full of bathos. It's straining for deepness, and many a viewer will constantly feel this strain. Almost every monologue or long exchange is weepy and overdone. The story would be much better captured by a novelist. Some people, apparently, are content to watch a bunch of mesmerizing images flicker by on a screen, but that's not enough for me...so I didn't like this.
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10/10
Poetic and Philosophical Magic
paveltsvetkov19 August 2006
Tarkovsky's 'Stalker' is the film that made me fall in love with cinema; write tens of pages on movies I have watched; go to America, following a crazy dream of becoming a film director - and thus influencing my later life immensely. I had read the book by Brothers Strugatski before seeing the movie and I think those two narratives are quite different. The book supplies us with the necessary background as Tarkovski never bothers to give any explanations in his film. I will not try to persuade anyone in 'Stalker's virtues - this film is way beyond that. I am sure it will be hated by many, but - with no intention of sounding rude - I couldn't care less. There have only been a handful of movies that, in the process of me watching them, have given me the intense feeling of penetrating to the essence of things - and God at its heart - thus bringing tears to my eyes. 'Stalker' - in its tender and humane ways - is probably the best of them.
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1/10
Unless you study cinematography don't bother
elenastolyarova18 May 2018
I am Russian born and after reading raving reviews here decided to give it a go. My boyfriend bravely joined. Well we tried our best and lasted about 40 minutes. My boyfriend fell asleep. I was bored to tears. My honest opinion unless you are high you can not watch it. Leave it to cinematography students to enjoy and search for a deeper meaning there. They might even find it. I didn't and happily switched if off.
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