Stalker ★★★★★

Nick Schager said that Stalker shows "something akin to the essence of what man is made of: a tangled knot of memories, fears, fantasies, nightmares, paradoxical impulses, and a yearning for something that's simultaneously beyond our reach and yet intrinsic to every one of us". It's about as good a summation of the quality of the movie that you can get in such a brief sentence. To truly capture the brilliance of Tarkovsky's movie would surely take years of examination, reflection, and dissection, and perhaps even then one wouldn't be able to write a thesis on the multitude of genius that is present in this haunting, beautiful, terrifying picture. A parable that feels almost Biblical in its storytelling, Tarkovsky invites his viewer in with an opening credits sequence that pours over your body in an ephemeral way, letting you know that this experience is going to be an *experience*.

Opening the first act in sepia was a remarkable decision, fully grounding the viewer in this cold, bleak universe before bursting us open into the vibrant color of the Zone. Yet, that transition isn't granted with any kind of great ceremony, no swells of orchestras or enormous burst of attention. The shift is almost casual in its execution, because Tarkovsky knows that the mere sight of the natural world is going to feel so simultaneously wondrous and eerie to a viewer who has become as immersed in this film as he intends them to. That contradictory feeling continues throughout the remainder of the journey, as the characters face a myriad of philosophical, existential, and mortal questions that are reflected onto the audience and exist somewhere inside just about every one of us. Stalker is at once a film that feels universal and incredibly unique to every person who experiences it, but for this viewer it made an impact that has reverberated almost non-stop since I finished my first time with it. It surely won't be the last time I enter the Zone.

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