Stalker ★★★½

2021 Criterion Challenge 51/52 (#47 - Based on a Book)

It seems Tarkovsky's definitive masterwork is my least favorite I've seen so far.

The first two acts are very heavy on an atmosphere that didn't fully pull me in and symbols and metaphors which admittedly alluded my understanding for the most part. What I did understand on a more macro-level was the Zone as a representation of the human condition, the three travellers representing different facets of it, covering tons of ground from escapism, identity, truth and knowledge, art, etc. All of the technical virtuousity I've come to expect from a Tarkovsky project is definitely there, especially in the sound design and cinematography, but even these qualities didn't quite reach the highs which Sacrifice, Nostalgia, and Ivan's Childhood did. It really starts to pick up for me in third act, which sees the characters really lay bare all of their innermost desires and demons; what they represent becomes clearer. The Writer, the Professor, and the Stalker all get explored in quite a bit of depth, each of them performed perfectly. My favorite scene, though, had to be the Stalker's wife's monologue at the end.

I did love to see the Tarkovsky canine canon expand.

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