Heath Lynch’s review published on Letterboxd:
Stalker is an amazingly triumphant and deconstructive look at the human experience. Stalker is also an overly long film suffering from genre fraud which ultimately detracts from its potential impact on its audience. But, the amazing qualities it has far outweighs the detracting moments, making Stalker a profound reviewing experience.
Everything that this film is saying about the state of man, role of government, the class system in society, and the mental health of individuals, is tremendous. Stalker takes on the role of fate, purpose, companionship, personal growth, personal happiness, and faith in more intelligent ways the 99% of films ever hope to achieve. In fact, the film is actively saying so much that it often contradicts itself with other statements later on within the runtime. What makes this unique, however, is that this is entirely intentional. As the film overall quite succinctly illustrates the points that life is a series of conundrums, and it is disingenuous to try to search for life’s greater meaning. If there is a greater purpose or meaning to life, we as humans will never know it. Additionally, we’re not meant to. The best thing that we could possibly do with ourselves in the limited time we have is to try to understand that we are all complex individuals experiencing our own lifestream, and that the more we can support each other through the difficult journey, the better. Especially in bleak and dark times rife with nihilism and hopelessness. Empathy and support is the only true course of action.
Right from the opening of this film it’s going to start hitting you in ways other films never have. Whether it is the long takes, shots establishing environments and character emotions, the overall performances of the small but talented ensemble cast, or the beautiful cinematography as the film transitions between monochrome brown sepia tones to fully realized color. At times it almost feels like it is evoking The Wizard of Oz as it opens your mind and your eyes to a whole new world of possibilities.
However, as much as there is a lot to appreciate, there is there are elements that hold me back from considering this the masterpiece that so many wish to proclaim it to be.
First, if we’re being honest with ourselves, this movie is too long. While many of these shots are straight gorgeous, many of them are also not necessary in their length. There’s so much of this movie where nothing happens that you could cut to increase the pacing, which increases the tension, while still giving enough breathing time to have these long pauses to experience the emotion of the moment.
Secondly, it is a mistake to have this set up as a sci-fi movie and then to completely not deliver on that premise. There’s no sci-fi that takes place in this film until the very final scene where a couple of glasses are moved via telekinesis. But the entire time our characters are traversing through the Zone we know that they are experiencing psychological trauma at the hands of supernatural sci-fi elements, but we as the audience don’t get to participate in any of them.
The Zone is supposed to be changing around them. As described in the movie, it is a labyrinth, with death around every corner. We are told that over and over. Yet, there’s no attempt to actually visualize that. An argument could be made that in and of itself is about having the audience explore their own faith as they have to believe the experiences of these characters without actually seeing what’s happening to them. But Stalker never questions whether these experiences are really happening. It’s treated as fact, there’s no faith to believe in. So it feels half assed that we can’t actually visualize what’s happening to them. We know that these experiences are the cause for what is making them having these deep philosophical and introspective moments, but we never once get to see the catalyst for these moments. This is incredibly disappointing and it destroys the entire sci-fi aspect of the film. At that point it would’ve been just better to have the movie be a straight drama with all these people talking around a table when they go on this philosophical journey. There’s no reason to actually go out on a physical adventure and bring sci-fi into this at all. That’s disappointing.
Overall, Stalker is an amazing picture. It does more to get its audience to question reality and their own purpose in the world than arguably any other film in existence. And, for that, it will always be a tremendous success. Despite its long run time that can lead to slow moments, or an underwhelming sci-fi concept, Stalker is must watch material for anyone who really wants to get to the heart of what makes film so special as a medium of art.
“You can't be happy at the expense of other's unhappiness.“
‘Top’ and ‘Favorites’ lists are as of the posting of this review. This, or any film, is subject to falling off as I see more films.