Jason Huang (黃擎元)’s review published on Letterboxd:
I have enjoyed Tarkovsky's first three films to varying degrees, but I appreciate most of them more than I actually like them. Yesterday's watch of Andrei Rublev was honestly a bit disappointing for me, and I was a bit apprehensive before watching Stalker, but I was literally hooked from the opening credits sequence. The score, the single take... I knew it was going to be something I loved.
It is beyond my capability to truly understand and analyze the film, but my first (very non-intellectual) thought after watching the film was... this movie is super wet.
Like, super wet.
I cannot imagine the shooting conditions of the film. I watched a video about the troubled production of this film, and I was genuinely shocked that they had to shoot this film THREE times. Seeing people in wet clothes is deeply uncomfortable for me, so weirdly enough, Stalker was a very visceral experience for me. I was squirming a lot, wondering how these three dudes could fall asleep on wet grass, or right next to a puddle of water. Every time they jumped into dirty water, I reacted strongly to it. Regardless of how slow the movie got, the wetness always kept me on edge.
This is just a tiny aspect of Tarkovsky's incredible world-building in the film, but that's what really stuck out for me. The film is primarily a linear journey from home to the Zone, and Tarkovsky incredible shots of nature and different areas of the zone make the trip feel non-repetitive. Like arthouse Indiana Jones (except the Holy Grail is the Room). It seems like I am much more tolerant of slower-paced films if they have less dialogue, so naturally, the pacing did not bother me in this film at all. In fact, I think it worked to the film's advantage, like you were a fourth member on this journey. The funky sound design gives the Zone an otherworldly presence, and the increasingly disorienting nature of the film left me quite confused, but in a really good way. And honestly, I'm surprised Tarkovsky said he made the beginning really slow on purpose so people had the chance to exit out of the theaters playing this film. I thought the first part of them trying to get to the Zone was extremely tense. No lie, there are some great car sequences in that part. It honestly reminded me of Children of Men.
Perhaps I'm a bit biased, as I do love a good science fiction story, but Stalker was a phenomenal experience for me. Unsurprisingly, Solaris was my favorite of his before this, but this didn't have the boring exposition found in the first half an hour of Solaris. No talking, just vibes and atmosphere. Hypnotic from start to finish. That last scene was something else.