Sunday, 19 February 2012


Stalker (Second viewing) 20th July 2014.

In the original ramble for Stalker (1979) (which follows) I said that the film, as with all Andrei Tarkovsky’s body of work, does require more than one viewing and I got the opportunity to see it again as part of the Robert Burns Centre Film Theatre’s Cult Sunday showing.

Following my first viewing nearly three years ago I said that the film would mean different things to different people, I would now add to that and say it would also depend on your state of mind at the time of viewing - it’s that powerful a movie!

This time I noticed a religious theme running through it, not necessary imagery just a theme. There was two direct quotes from the Bible, the first Revelation 6: 12-17 whispered by an off screen woman’s voice, (Stalkers wife?) and telling us about the opening of the six seal, the destruction of Heaven and Earth, and the vain attempts by the survivors to hide themselves from the wrath of the lamb. The second passage offered up by Stalker himself is from Luke 24: 13-18, which describes the meeting on the road to Emmaus between the resurrected Christ and two of his apostles who fail to recognize him. We know the film is a journey, but it now seems clearer that the journey is the journey to discover themselves and what life actually means. Once you struggle through the Zone and get to the Room it promises anything you wish but we don’t know at what cost – the price could be death of course? But getting there could be the prize in it self?  By watching this movie unfold we learn from our protagonists that they must have faith; which they develop it as their travels unfold. By not taking up the option of ‘wishing’ the Writer and the Professor were able to return with an increased knowledge of life and continue to live their lives in a different way. Even with this knowledge we know that life is not easy and would, like our two travellers, question at times if such a struggle is worthwhile?

Stalker pushes the limits of contemporary cinema.
Don’t be fooled, this is not science fiction but a moral-philosophical parable, which was described by Tarkovsky as being about ‘the existence of God in man, and about the death of spirituality as a result of our possessing false knowledge’.  There is no doubt that this is the greatest cinematic masterpiece ever produced and one your never be able to get out of your head.   

Stalker (first viewing) February 2012. 

Like a nightmare of low esteem our film begins in black and white, the camera enters a brown monochrome room through two doors. We discover there are three people sleeping in a large bed. A man rises from the bed, puts on his boots and trousers, goes through to another room, lights a fire and cleans his teeth. His wife follows him; she nags him about stealing her watch. The only person now left in the crumpled bed is Monkey the couple’s mutant daughter. The man tells his wife he’s going away again, she does not seem happy telling him she may not see him again if he goes back!!! She collapses on the floor in what seems like a sexual fit, rubbing her body through her nightdress, only stopping when she reaches an orgasm of sorts.  The man known as Stalker leaves the dwelling to meet two other men in a rudimentary bar. The first and taller of the two is the Professor; the second and more talkative is the Writer. Stalker has agreed to re-enter The Zone and act as their guide, taking them through a deserted area of abandoned debris included discarded tanks, armoured cars and concrete bunkers. Their quest is to reach ‘The Room’ where we are told ones innermost desires are realised. Authoritarian armed police guard the entry to The Zone. We have been informed that a meteor landed into this forbidden area and that soldiers had been sent in to investigate, never to be seen again.

Tarkovsky's premonition (Reactor 4 Chernobyl).

Andrei Tarkovsky Stalker (1979) is a journey that will mean different things to different people. Cold and bleak but compulsive viewing a movie that could not being fully appreciated with only one viewing. An intriguing film that breaths drama, tension and dread.  Was this film a premonition of what was to come? Seven years after the films completion an explosion and fire in a nuclear reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the Ukraine released large quantities of radioactive contamination into the atmosphere that spread as far as South West Scotland. This incident was considered to be the worst nuclear power plant accident in history. Its 30-kilometre Exclusion Zone known as the ‘Zone of Alienation’ certainly bares an uncanny resemblance to Tarkovsky vision in celluloid.

The second coming! 

The deaths from cancer of Tarkovsky in 1986, his wife Larissa and Anatoly Solonitsyn, who plays the Writer, were all due to contamination from a chemical plant upstream from the movie set! In fact most of the cast and crew are no longer with us. It's not enough to say that Stalker is a great film - it is the reason cinema was invented.[1]

[1] Geoff Dyer The Guardian 6th February 2009.

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