Stalker ★★★½

Aleksandr Kaydanovsky is a Stalker, a man who illegally leads paying customers into a forbidden area called "The Zone," where a mysterious "Room" supposedly allows their deepest desires to be realized. This Room is allegedly a gift left by super-advanced alien visitors, or perhaps an anomaly caused by a meteor. Nobody is quite sure. But government authorities fear its power, and the location seems to be protected by a variety of death traps, so the military have cordoned off The Zone and prohibited access.

Stalker's wife Zhena (Alisa Freyndlikh), who must care for their crippled daughter Marta (Natalya Abramova) aka Monkey, fears that her husband will die in The Zone or be arrested, but her pleas to "get a real job" are ignored. Instead, he arranges to take two men to the Room, the Writer (Anatoly Solonitsyn) and the Professor (Nikolay Grinko). The trio must dodge patrolmen and bullets as they leave the depressing sepia-toned world of reality and enter the lushly colored realm of possibility that The Zone represents. There is plenty of heady discussion along the way about the meaning of life, the true nature of desire, and the decline of modern society. The story itself is loosely based on the Strugatsky brothers' 1972 sci-fi novel entitled "Roadside Picnic."

Although I enjoyed this film, I can't rate it as highly as the four other films I have seen by director Andrei Tarkovsky. I'm afraid I agree with officials at Goskino USSR who said the pacing was too slow. It takes too long to get to the crux of the story. Some of the lengthy takes could have been shorter, and I really didn't get the point of involving the black dog at all. A wild animal like a wolf I would have understood, but dogs are domesticated and this one didn't add to the tension.


Part of my 5 Directors x 5 Unseen Films challenge.