Justin Peterson’s review published on Letterboxd:
Criterion Collection Spine #888
(Foreign language film)
A transcendental feast of cinema!
Wow, where do you begin with Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker. It has the amazing style of 'The Mirror' but with a densely packed story that will certainly require repeated viewings to fully absorb.
Stalker takes place in this futuristic version of Soviet Russia, where some kind of event has separated the rundown urban area that is show thru this beige sepia filter from the Zone, which is a strange wilderness environment that is shown in color. In this world their are Stalkers who guide people into the Zone and to a room where their deepest wish can come true, and this film focuses on this journey that is taken by two men and a Stalker with a wife and young child.
Tarkovsky uses long shallow shots to truly make these environments feel contained and realistic. While the Stalker warns of mysterious traps in the Zone, we really don't see too much out of the ordinary. Instead, each shot has this dream-like quality that often takes something mundane like a sewer or hillside with slanted telephone poles, and transforms them into the landscape of the Zone. That sandy desert room scene has to be on my list of the top sets that I have ever seen in a movie.
The subtitles in this film are fast and dense with meaning that is ripe for interpretation. It is almost like watching a Shakespearean play with how lush and eloquent the dialogue is.
Stalker is slow and methodical, and I really enjoyed the experience that you get from seeing these men wander deeper into the Zone. I think it is a masterpiece of world cinema that I hope clicks more for me upon repeated viewings.
Spoilers and further analysis:
There are just so many subtle clues laid out in Stalker, that it becomes overwhelming with the possible meanings. Heck, I heard one interpretation saying they shot up some drugs and never actually leave the bar.
I have only begun listening to analysis of the film, but Renegade Cut's www.youtube.com/watch?v=kz8ojFM31Mg view of this being a search for God or the meaning of life in a word where faith is dying seems on point.
I must admit the two men do seem a little melodramatic when they turn on the Stalker once they reach the room. The Stalker's purpose is to guide people to this room to be rewarded for their faith. But instead, the men fear what their deepest desires are, despite them saying they are looking for fame and inspiration. One of them even feels the need to try and destroy the room based on his fear of what humanity will use it for. His intent and a bomb being used here could be hinting at the fear of nuclear apocalypse.
Then we get this sudden surge of rain, almost like tears from heaven where God is sad that these men have not only lost faith in him but in themselves.
The final shot has to be the most puzzling, and I would love to hear more interpretations. Like in 'The Mirror' Tarkovsky uses this concept of glasses moving by themselves. In Stalker this happens again, but instead of it possibly being a ghost, it seems to be hinting that the Stalker's daughter is doing this with her mind. Perhaps she has been to the room and has gained this telepathic ability which proves God's existence and presents hope that the next generation will return the world to a place of love thru faith. The theme of faith also plays into the men trusting the Stalker to guide them thru the Zone, and this gets tested many times and in the end the men abandon his lead.
The wife's monologue at the end also presents some interesting questions about the choices we make in life despite advice or warnings from those close to us... and in the end accepting if they were the right choices or those that we come to regret.
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Happy movie watching... SKOL!