Stalker ★★★

An expedition guide leads a writer and a professor into the heart of a mysterious restricted area known as the Zone where there supposedly exists a room which grants a person's innermost desires.

"Say there's some antique pot in a museum. In its own time, it was a trash bin. But now it draws admiration for its simplicity of line and unique form. And everyone oohs and aahs over it. Suddenly, it turns out not to be an antique at all. It was planted by some joker for a laugh. The sounds of admiration die away. Some connoisseurs!"

Countless (arbitrary) factors together determine the worth of, or how much me want, something, including numerous subjective, hidden, and context-dependent aspects, so how are we ever to grasp it? Let alone understand our innermost desires? And yet desires spurs human development and societal change, the good and the bad. When two people want the same thing it may lead to conflict, when two people want very different things it may drive them apart. Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker question whether we'd be better off not wanting at all, our innermost desires never achieved. Simultaneously, the film acknowledges there's such a thing as existing under substandard conditions. Isn't living moderately comfortable objective better than living in a cold, noisy, and worn apartment? Isn't being inspired writer better than being an uninspired one? Isn't Stalker better than Annihilation? (Just kidding)

Although I take great interest in these topics, and prize some ways in which Stalker addresses them, I unfortunately didn't however found myself engrossed by either its thematic scrutiny, or the Zone where most of this plodding story takes place. I liked it better than Mirror, but for now Tarkovsky remains a widely, almost unanimously praised auteur whose work still goes under-appreciated by yours truly. Once I find the energy to try again, I hope Solaris changes this.

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