abdel’s review published on Letterboxd:
Before Stalker, there existed no concept in my mind that film could speak directly to one’s soul. Granted I hadn’t seen many films of poetry and human nature at the time [July 2019], there hadn’t been any achievements of art that brought me to the core of my existence. Two very significant matters Tarkovsky examines in his monumental work—faith and devotion—set a precedent for ages of discussion, an achievement that shall be equally studied as it is applauded.
We awaken, a brisk day it is indeed. Could Autumn be shedding its final leaves, or are we in the midst of the Winter? Regardless, there’s something ineluctably excruciating about the world we find ourselves in. This world, monochrome, evidently impenetrable and unforgiving—it thirsts for a soul rather than a shell; reflection over pride; neutrality over self-bias. It takes from those who offer what it inquires and leaves them hopeless, recurrently to the void of destitution. In those that die a death of tranquility, there lies a congruity: conviction, a faith in themselves parallel to God’s creations.
We ask ourselves, are we truly miserable, or do we simply lack faith? Surely faith cannot be the case, as many religious families spend their days in despair. However, Tarkovsky’s impression of faith is not strictly limited to scriptures. No, this is a faith in humanity; a belief of anything greater than the individual, really. There must be a reason, a justification for our suffering; a reward for our benevolence—fate, or destiny as some may call it. It is rational to cite this faith as the adherent that keeps mankind from crumbling under pressure. Logic and pride may not always coexist with faith as it does not rely on these factors, factors shared by the Writer (ego) and the Professor (coherence). Faith is an incontinuous path of struggle and enlightenment, of aberration and compassion—and in the center of it all lies atonement, an arc of redemption and conquest.
What we perceive as "suffering" is necessary in order to give our lives meaning; whether financial or social poverty challenges us throughout our lives, strips us of everything we hold dear to ourselves—without these instances, one cannot experience true contentment in a contrasting situation. The state of misfortune exemplifies bliss and so on—a destined curse, only to fly upwards with the passing of time.
"How would I know that actually I don't want what I want?"
As we enter the Zone, we are accompanied by the sight of color. The trees, shrubs, and pastures are no longer monotone; the sky is lively. This world is unstained by the faults of man, as no men walk the Zone besides the three travelers and those before them. The screams of those that suffer vanish in nihility, and all that is left is the sound of the wind brushing against the leaves, greeting its native inhabitants. But what exactly is the Zone? Could it be God’s way of punishment on Earth or could it be a blessing to those that deserve it? A question that could be answered by asking the same to ourselves, we often believe our “search” is one that is allegiant and modest, when these are only lies we tell ourselves; lies so deeply engraved into our skulls that we cannot differentiate between the deception and the truth, leaving the veracity impossible to face, without doubting the integrity of our morality and stature after the fact. However, to say that all souls are inherently selfish can only be classified as ignorant. Rather, this realization can only be discovered internally. It is up to us to evaluate the self and our neighbors in order to sincerely interpret these virtues, no matter how difficult it may be to face.
Production for Stalker was far from ideal. For one, the film had to be reshot several times due to damaging of the film (which is rumored to be the work of KGB), and Tarkovsky’s original location for the focal part of the film [old Chinese mines] had to be scrapped due to an earthquake, and was abruptly relocated to an abandoned powerplant in the fields of Estonia. What may seem like production hell (Apocalypse Now says hi) only shaped the film into what it is today. Nature was on Tarkovsky’s side even though it seemed to be against him, and I couldn’t imagine Stalker to be any different than what it is today. I may never be able to adequately transcribe my thoughts of this film to words, but as a good friend of mine once said, maybe it’s better that we can’t—its image in my head constantly evolves, with every new realization, a new appreciation follows. It’s one of few films I consider flawless, and I am eternally grateful to Tarkovsky for pouring his life and wisdom into it.
Gone too soon, there will never be another man like him. Happy birthday.