Stalker ★★★★★

This is cinema at its finest. Every once in a while I watch a film that perfectly showcases everything that is unique and beautiful about cinema as an art form. A film that highlights what sets this medium apart from any other artistic medium by delivering an experience that could only exist within the capacity of a motion picture. "Stalker" is such a film, a momentous achievement in filmmaking that is brilliant, haunting, and revelatory in its sublime use of imagery.

Directed by world renowned Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky, who is widely considered to be one of the greatest directors to ever live, "Stalker" is a filled to the brim with gorgeous, breathtaking artistry within every frame. The story is set in a post apocalyptic world after a supposed meteorite crash lands on earth rendering countless miles of land as uninhabitable. Within the middle of this crash site, known only as "the Zone" lies a mysterious, and fabled room that has the ability to grant anyone's deepest desires so long as they can even locate and enter said room. A journey begins when two men, known only as the "Professor" and the "Writer" enlist the help of a guide known as a "Stalker". This Stalker is adept in secretly guiding travelers to and from the Zone (which has been deemed "forbidden" by what is remaining of the government) for a fee of course. What follows is an adventure unlike any other, filled not only with physical obstacles to overcome but deep, disturbing philosophical and moral choices that challenge every belief these three men have ever held.

This is a harrowing, riveting, achingly beautiful film that had me enraptured with it from the very first frame. Tarkovsky's brilliant, masterful way of crafting an enigmatic story whilst exploring fundamental, existential and philosophical questions that all of humanity internally wrestles with is truly something to behold. Questions on the tenets of faith, the nature of humanity, whether there is any such thing as inherent good or evil in the universe, and so much more. The brooding, cerebral debates raged throughout the film could lead to endless discussions once the credits roll, enabling the film to live on in your mind far from when it is over. Tarkovosky wisely does not try to answer every one of the musings touched upon throughout, yet still bravely attempts to deconstruct more so than many other filmmakers would ever dare; the man was a philosopher through and through offering his unique insight into the machinations of the world we live in not through text but through the cinematic lens.

As with all Tarkovsky films, "Stalker" is visually astounding, delivering such stark, bleak, sumptuous and immaculately composed imagery. Relying on long, continuous shots that let both the actors and the environment itself unravel the story in an unhurried, deliberate manner. One breathtaking sequence in particular has the camera fixated upon the three leads as they sit, defeated, in the background while the foreground slowly begins to rain. Initially starting with a light drizzle until ultimately cascading in a near torrential downpour; this continues for several minutes before the rain slowly dissipates into a dry calm once again. It's brilliantly executed and confidently paced, perfectly encapsulating the entire films gorgeous exploration into the seemingly mundane minutia of life.

Certainly not for everyone, this nearly 3 hour Russian film is often as enigmatic as they come. Combined with a deliberately meandering pace as well as a sporadic narrative and the results are a film that challenges viewers only accustom to mainstream narrative storytelling. I hate how pretentious that sounds as I too love mainstream filmmaking, yet to me an appreciation of cinema is not merely picking between the lesser seen avant-garde and popular films. A love of cinema is appreciating every permutation the medium as to offer. "Stalker" represents the best of non traditional storytelling, delivering a wholly original experience of sight and sound that has rarely been rivaled. Anyone interested in film, especially foreign cinema, should consider this a must see. One of the best films i've seen in a long while.