Stalker ★★★★★

In Roadside Picnic, the novel that this is based on, the original McGuffin is called the “Golden Sphere.” This object has the power to fulfill one's wishes, and like many similar Monkey's Paw-esque devices it isn't as simple as getting what it is you (think) you desire.

But in Stalker this is changed to "The Room," which is notably a destination instead of an entity. This "Room" serves the exact same function as the "Sphere" and has the same wish-with-a-twist granting powers, yet for some reason this feels completely different. Rather than an object, something to possess and engulf and impose upon your desires, it is a location that you enter, that possesses and engulfs and imposes instead. Maybe it's completely meaningless and Tarkovsky had no specific intentions, but it reminds me of the difference between a relic and a sanctuary: the former can fall under the ownership of humans, and the latter is unmovable and hermetic instead.

I think that was the right choice to make as "The Room" never feels comprehensible. We understand objects well: a lamp, a contract, a desiccated primate hand, they all can come under (a pretense of) ownership. But space is different, space feels like negativia, an inversion of what we intuitively know and a reversal of the power dynamic in who's possessing who – and that is the best way I can describe Stalker.

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