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Russia 1979
Directed by
Andrei Tarkovsky
163 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars


I have no idea what Tarkovsky’s film is about (some Dantesque allegory about life under Communism perhaps?) and many will decry its opacity but there is no doubt that its imagery is extraordinary.  

Variously reminiscent of Godard’s Alphaville (1965), Truffaut’s Fahrenheit 451  (1966) and Lynch’s Eraserhead (1978) it is set in an unnamed country at an unspecified time after some social collapse has reduced it to a dour, totalitarian wasteland. The narrative, such as it is,depicts the journey of  three men, a “stalker” (Aleksandr Kajdanovsky) who guides a writer (Anatoliy Solonitsyn) and a scientist (Nikolay Grinko) through The Zone which is the only way to access The Room, a mysterious place where dreams come true.  

Basing his film on Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s sci-fi novella “Roadside Picnic’, Tarkovsky has stripped out the sci-fi elements and turned it into a rumination on….well, that is hard to say.  Like characters out of a Beckett play Tarkovsky’s three adventurers inhabit a ruined world (the first part of the film is shot in nicotine-stained sepia) which they escape from so that they can embark on their uncertain quest to attain The Room. Once they arrive in The Zone the film changes to colour but this in no way signifies an emotional contrast. Existential fear and loathing remain the order of the day.

Normally this sort of thing would be readily dismissed as artistic self-indulgence but like the films already cited it is the dream-like atmosphere of Stalker which is compelling, well beyond any specific meaning.




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