Stalker

Stalker ★★★★½

Getting to see this on the big screen was a real delight--the transfer on the DVD I have isn't great, but I didn't think it was bad, but in retrospect--everything POPS, here. Quick example-the scene after the credits, where we're introduced to the Stalker and his family--camera moving slowly through an open doorway-a shot of a bedroom, moldy wallpaper, the tray on the floor, before switching to the overhead shot for the faces of the family in bed together--before, the moldy wallpaper just looked like stained brown wallpaper. With the new transfer, it's got its own texture that adds to the scene--a big part of Stalker is the environment and the effect it has on the characters, and this really lets you imagine you can feel that environment--both in the framing scenes, and later in the zone itself. (I realize this makes me one of those reviewers who talks excitedly about the visual texture of wallpaper and how it is important thematically--reader, there are worse fates).

+This film is lulling and powerful, but it can be a challenge to get into. I had been out Saturday night and while I wasn't exhausted, I was a little sleep-deprived--by the time the Stalker and his companions were in the room of sand, I was fighting the temptation to put my head back and stop paying attention to the subtitles. I wasn't bored with the movie or disconnected, but it did feel a bit like I was being hypnotized. Coming out of the theater, there were a couple of people complaining about how the characters were overexplaining everything and how there was too much dialogue, which I found interesting-especially since it's made explicitly clear that even the Stalker himself doesn't really understand the Zone or what's happening there.
(and also, Tarkovsky does hold back some information from the audience)

Originally, I'd seen the film before reading the novel it's taken from (Roadside Picnic)--the book is very good, but very different from the film, and on revisiting it, I think that, like say--Kubrick's The Shining, this is an example of the benefits of not having slavishly loyal adaptations to the text.

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