Honestly, I started thinking that at the very first portion of the film. Here I am, watching a sepia-toned feature that has possibly two minutes before even the first cut changes perspective. By the time the scene reached a bar, I was finished with it.... for the time being. There was something that told me to revisit Stalker when my mind and time frame were clear, and I'm glad that I did.
Embrace the concept of emotional immersion when viewing this film, when you're awake and you have nothing pressing to accomplish. It's not for those who want a story line dealing with heroes/villains, rite of passage, or gaining popularity. It's bent on personal turmoil and a quest of inner peace, acceptance, or even what the existence of life is all about. Stalker reminds me of Wizard of Oz (1939) insofar as its structure, relying on film stock to highlight location, yet there are also subtle comparisons regarding what the three characters (just like Oz) hope to find in their own searches. The film starts in a community that has been cordoned off, similar to actual Russian events of chemical/nuclear disasters, prior to Chernobyl, and by the time the film winds up, you'll see some instances of dismal foreboding (which occurred seven years later in Chernobyl), as well as with the demise of a number of cast and crew of Stalker, who wound up succumbing to bodily poisons incurred through the production of the film.
While they shortened their lives making Stalker, it's a visually stunning and eerie masterpiece, which live on. I speak of these radioactive events - Kyshtym (1957, at Ozyorsk, Chelyabinsk Oblast) and the Leningrad Nuclear Reactor (1975) which must have inspired director Andrei Tarkovsky.
The child in the movie acts out a debilitating condition that many people affected by these disasters had actually suffered, in large part because government officials refused to acknowledge the disaster and fallout quickly enough to evacuate many people in time. I think that Stalker was written to tap into those events as well as dig into the minds of a dreamer, a writer and a professor, each seeking something very personal, and yet they have to ask themselves how genuine their soul-searching is.
The long, deliberate lack of camera movement used in Stalker has been abandoned today for a quick-pace editing, which makes viewers not think so much. Tarkovsky relied on the snail's pace approach, which compel an audience to reach into their individual senses of sight and sound which will help or disturb the viewer's inner peace. And there are so many things that give viewers a sense of unease, which is so effective: Sounds don't match sights throughout the film. The dialog was completely rerecorded after filming. You'll hear birds, waterfalls, wind, and the clickety clack of the work car they ride, all which simply don't match. This is a film technique that adds to an underlying state of mental instability for the viewer.
One particular scene is also subtly jarring, when the "stalker"walks away from the writer and scientist, going to a grove of trees for a monologue; upon his return, the scene behind the trio has become shrouded in a fog.
The trio leave a community to journey to a fenced in Zone, but are they prisoners both where they live, as well as where they travel? When you review every shot of Stalker, you'll realize that no scene has a sense of unconditional beauty. There is decay, desolation and a sense of infectious isolation that pervades, starting with the family scene.
I bring these to light to help those who shrug off the film as worthless. But ultimately, however, Tarkovsky only cared about what two people in the whole world thought about Stalker : Robert Bresson and Ingmar Bergman. By the time the dust (or fallout) settles, we are somewhat like those three who find themselves searching in the dreamlike world of The Zone: what is this all about, how did we get here, and what should we gain - or lose - from the experience. Stalker is a keeper.