Luke Whittle’s review published on Letterboxd:
With this week's nostalgic journey through favourites, as well as squeezing a new discovery, I of course need to revisit some of cinema's most purest. If I had to say what is the most definitive art film, Stalker, or perhaps most if not all of Tarkovsky's films would reach somewhere on top, he is after all my favourite.
Stalker combines science fiction (based on Roadside Picnic by the Strugatsky brothers), existential themes and Earthy and hypnotic mysticism. It is a film about faith and searching for the innermost wish, faith, happiness and hope in the Zone. Which was what three men; Stalker (a priestly man who shepherds them through this eerie place), Writer (who is looking for inspiration) and Professor (who looks for a new discovery), strive for and go through great and difficult lengths to achieving their find. Despite the heavy amount of scepticism and philosophical musings they imagine before and after going deep into the Zone's room.
People are disallowed from their hometown to visit such place, their hometown is the most hopeless ramshackle, and is oppressive and cacophanous whilst the Zone is quiet and has a creepy but beautiful feel to it. Which is what the film is about, having faith within a hopeless world where all odds are seemingly against the individual, as well as the importance of art. Writer and Stalker are some of the most relatable characters I know, the former for hope that their work gains recognition without being torn apart and seek for appreciation, and the latter for seeking hope and faith which cannot be taken away even from an oppressive city. Which is most likely inspired from Tarkovsky's, as well as other religious artists such as Parajanov and writer Alexandr Solzhenitsyn's (whether works being banned or even sentences to gulags) , experiences of oppression from an authoritarian, state atheist government who censored anything else other than what was called "Socialist realism".
Tarkovsky achieved this vision of miracles, searches for meanings and wishes through beautiful camera work, with steady camera movement, long takes and a barrage of breathtakingly still long takes with often doses of surrealism, metaphysics and natural photography, often looking like paintings. The colour pallette is sparing with colour for themes of the zone and mysticism, and sepia tone for the joyless and empty streets of their city. Each image, as do all Tarkovsky films or many other Soviet poetic film look like moving intensely detailed paintings from the Renaissance era (Breughel specifically inspired Tarkovsky in a huge way, which I may have mentioned in the Solaris review)
The sound design is so impeccable, that my class in university actually recommended this film, to my surprise, for a study on film sound (as I was a music student). Its immense detail of diegetic and non-diegetic, and even some sounds thrown in that you thought would never fit with the scene yet added for the zone's mystique.
This film, alongside Solaris, in my first viewing made me realise my spirituality, whereas Rublev four months later made me solidify it. It changed my view on cinema, how I saw the world and much more, which is possibly why I consider it a top 10, and much more for technicality. Whether spiritual, philosophical or experiential or anything, perhaps it can change your views on cinema or anything you wish for yourself if you allow it, much like the Zone can potentially change the characters' if they allow it.