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

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

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

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

Andrei Tarkovsky was an artist who did not like giving solid answers to the questions his films posed. He sculpted his stories so that viewers who had the patience and self-discipline to stay attentive all the way through could draw their own conclusions. If there is any specific meaning to "Stalker," it is that we have to fully understand anything for which we are willing to alter our lives.
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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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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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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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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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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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The Zone
tintin-232 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
This film is loosely based on Arkady and Boris Strugatsky's "Road Side Picnic," and Tarkovsky tried, as he did with his "Solaris" (1972), to downplay the science fiction aspect of "Stalker." Except for a brief explanation at the film's beginning, Tarkovsky chooses to ignore the speculations as to what could have created The Zone, and the changes within it.

With "Stalker," Tarkovsky marks the shift toward his later style, with the long takes throughout the film averaging one minute in length, with many four minutes or longer. These long scenes in turn rely heavily on the talent of the actors to sustain the mood, like Writer's long monologue in the sand mogul room. In "Stalker," Tarkovsky is definitively more systematic in his use of black-and-white (sepia) and color stocks than he had been in his previous works. In the swamp scene and Stalker's dream, Tarkovsky reverts to is more usual convention, where dreams are shown in black-and-white, and reality in color. However, the last scene is in color, implying a leakage of the powers of The Zone into the outside reality.

As always in Tarkovsky's films, the natural world is present. Water, which used to be the source of life, a redemptive force and a center of regeneration, is now mostly a symbol of decay and pollution. The only exception is in the dream scene in the swamp, where the water is somewhat restored to its positive symbols. In the last scene in The Zone, the men, resigned to their limitations and weakness, sit outside The Room, as the rain falls inside, gently blocking them from entering.

The wind is associated with the spiritual, and the earth is a positive force. Upon arriving in The Zone, Stalker's first act is to lie down and embrace it, and in the swamp, all three men lay on it. Like a miracle, there is the luxuriant, if dangerous, Nature ever present in the Zone, in contrast to the polluted outside world, where it is totally absent.

And then there is the mysterious dog, which first appears in the swamp scene. Up to this point, the men felt totally alienated from their environment, outside and inside The Zone, and it is at the very moment when they start to meditate and remember, that the dog appears: The Zone is its territory. But at the end of the film, the dog has followed Stalker outside the Zone, showing that even there, the hope that the men were looking for inside The Zone must somehow also exist here, outside, as the dog establishes its own space even though it becomes domesticated in the process.

Although Tarkovsky usually favors classics by such composers as Bach, Pergolesi, or Purcell, the musical score in "Stalker" consists almost exclusively of Eduard Artemiev's electronic music mixed with some folk melodies, contributing efficiently to the hypnotic atmosphere of the film.

The performances of Nikolia Grinko and Anatoly Solonitsyn, as two lost souls in search of an answer, are convincing. Aleksandr Kajdanovsky is outstanding in his role of a tormented and somewhat pathetic Stalker. Although Alisa Frejndlikh's appearance in the film is restricted to only few scenes, there are most powerful.

In "Stalker," Tarkovsky opposes a world in decline, polluted and sterile, to a verdant Zone, which has gotten the better of any human enterprises. He portrays a society which has severed all links with nature, with its own past, and lost its spiritual or moral bearings.

"Stalker" explores the conflict between science, rationalism, materialism, and cynicism versus spirituality, faith, art, and love. The three men embody different philosophical principles. Professor is a rational being who tries to understand the world according to the law of physics. He justifies his going into The Zone as purely scientific curiosity. Writer belongs to those people who cannot accept the world as it is. He is well aware of humanity's decay and of his own as well, but he abhors science, which he does not understand, and would rather look for answers in the supernatural. Writer believes in the redemptive power of art, but he has lost his own inspiration.

Stalker is alone in showing an inclination toward faith. He knows The Zone and has total faith in it, speaking about it as if it were a living being. Stalker respects and fears The Zone at the same time, as he recognizes its potential to provide comfort to the wretched ones who, like himself, have lost all hope, but at the same time it punishes who so ever infringes its rules. This, of course, is how most religious people see their own Gods.

The redemptive power of love is personified by Stalker's wife. Her love and devotion is the final miracle which opposes cynicism and the emptiness of the modern world. All these ideas are clearly expressed at the film's end, as she addresses the audience in her heartfelt monologue.

As the three characters reach The Room, they can ask for their dearest wishes to be granted, but this would require a painful and searching self-examination, with the realization that what they thought they wanted was not exactly what they now really want. For Professor, his true aim was to destroy The Room, which was beyond his scientific understanding. Writer had said that the purpose of his journey was to regain his genius, his inspiration. However, on the threshold of The Room, he realizes that he may not worthy of accepting The Room's gift. As for Stalker, he asks for nothing of The Room, his only purpose to make the trip being to bring hope and happiness to those most retched than he.

"Stalker" is certainly Tarkovsky's most complex and most beautiful film, and is worthy of many viewings to appreciate its aesthetic and depth. Unfortunately, the word limitation of this review does not allow one to explore all the intricacies of this extraordinary film and do it justice.
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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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boring and artsy
vailsy5 April 2007
lets get one thing straight, this is an art film for art/academic people. therefore if you're looking forward to watching a sci-fi film then forget it

it takes the stalker around 9 minutes to get out of bed. then he meets up with some blokes who want to go to 'the zone'. he then takes them to 'the zone' in some kind of rail cart and we are treated to several minutes worth of railway clamping sounds. these blokes then hang about in a field

yes we can discuss all the philosophical meaning behind it but lets face it.. it's like 'last of the summer wine' set in Russia, with no fun or enjoyment of any kind

okay i'll admit some of the shots are beautiful but if a film is about audience satisfaction, then this is not a film. it's a collection of long drawn out artistic set pieces. also the whole non diegetic sound thing doesn't work as well here as it did in Solyaris for example

yes this is experimental cinema, but to be graded alongside conventional film and be given a rating of 8.something is highly unrealistic and misleading to a film layman who might be coming on this website to discover a new sci fi movie to enjoy

what irritates me as well about movies of this kind is that they are often wielded by creatively limited people who want to impress with their wide appreciation and knowledge of cinema

before watching this film a friend of mine who is an absolute film connoisseur in every regard gave me some advice. he told me that if i want to have a good sleep then i should watch stalker
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insufferably boring and egotistical
badbro1321 April 2007
This was in fact the most boring film I have ever seen in my entire life. I am not a hater of slow paced movies-- my favorite film of all time is 2001: a space odyssey-- but some movies, like this one, manage to drag you through what seems like five hours of mud without any payoff that you expect from a movie directed by a snail. This film very easily could have been a short story or a novella as the whole film was just simply walking and walking and then an occasional pause that the characters would take to reflect on universal truths and the meaning of their lives. Two hours could have been edited out. There are shots that last over five minutes where the camera does not move the least bit, and there seems to be no motive whatsoever for this decision. I felt many waves of pretentious as I sat through these laboriously long takes that gave the impression that the director did not in fact no how to build tension or emotion in a scene, except by letting the characters handle it. This works in Woody Allen movies, but in this film since the dialog is so repetitive and there is rarely any dramatic movement from the characters, you are left with the urge to gouge your own eyes out. I would rather eat my own flesh than watch this pointless exercise in pretentiousness and boredom. This film could have been a short play or a magazine article, and saved us the pain of watching three characters do the same thing over and over again in a series of mundane and repetitive shots. The lighting was awesome.
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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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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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a work of a powerful mind
old-tuchka3 October 2000
It's very obvious to everyone that this film is not a movie. Why is it not equally obvious that it is not an entertainment either? It is not even a work of art. It's a work of mind, a powerful mind of a philosopher. Why don't we take works of Kierkegaard and let an average American reader rate it?

OK, I don't need to sound so angry. I don't even pretend that I understand it all. The film makes you think about as many different topics as your particular brain can harbor and approach. What a mighty stir! But you can only take it as far as you are capable of. I don't know what I would do if this film were not as slow as it is. I think my head would explode. Or I'd simply stop reacting to what the film is trying to tell me, simply become numb, as we become numb to crime, war, famine and market chronicles in the daily news. But the film's intention is not to stop me from thinking, but to make me think. And in that it succeeds more than any other film I have ever seen.

It can not be compared with other films and therefore should not be rated.

It is NOT FOR EVERYONE. But EVERYONE, who approaches it as he would approach a serious book, will come out of this experience richer and wiser than before.
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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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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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Better than AVATAR - but that's just my catchphrase.
queasy-14 April 2010
This movie made me really, really angry. Not because it's almost unbearably boring and overrated to a ridiculous extend. No, Mostly I hated it because i just finished reading the book it's based on, "Roadside Picknick". I love this Book, because you rarely come across a more chilling or atmospheric story about an alien culture meeting ours. I thought, a movie made from this book must be great, because you could do something outstanding even on a low budget. So I really looked forward to watch this one. What did I get? 3 Guys talking endlessly. It felt like being back to school and forced to watch a philosophical stage play of three hours length. The worst thing is that the strugatzki-brothers themselves screwed this up. It almost seems as if they wrote the screenplay with the intention to eliminate everything which was great about their own novel. I keep it short and give you a list of the outrageous decisions they made:

IN THE BOOK the main guy, Roderic, is a hard-arsed scavenger who is sort of addicted to the bizarre Nature of "the Zone". IN THE MOVIE, he is a whimsical, bible-quoting coward in search of some sort of divine illumination. IN THE BOOK, you experience the deadly traps and anomalies of space and time the "Zone" is contaminated with. IN THE MOVIE, you don't see SH*T and nobody even hurts his ankle -- despite HOURS of dialogs emphasizing how dangerous the slightest movement can be. IN THE BOOK, the Zone is a lifeless industrial wasteland where not even birds are to be seen. IN THE MOVIE you have the impression of a nice stroll through a green landscape with some bunker ruins in it. IN THE BOOK, there are lots of alien artifacts that most effectively create an impression of their culture and technology. IN THE MOVIE, you get some strange sounds, also the aliens are completely reduced to a humble meteorite. IN THE BOOK, Roderics Daughter is disfigured by the strange effects of the "Zone" on human beings. IN THE MOVIE she's mentioned to be mutated, too, but looks perfectly normal. IN THE BOOK, you have really creepy stuff like "the meat-mincer" or the walking Dead - IN THE MOVIE you don't.

I could go on like this for hours. Let me just put it like this: If they just had made a lousy B-movie I would be perfectly OK. I don't blame anyone for screwing up, it doesn't suit me. But this Disgrace of a movie was done this way ON PURPOSE! It is simply a violation of a great Science-Fiction-Novel and can only be enjoyed by Philosophy-students who mistake everything for high art as long as it's boring enough.
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