kathy’s review published on Letterboxd:
Mankind exists to create works of art. Unlike all other human activities, this one is unselfish. Great illusions! Images of the absolute truth!
Does respect of the Zone matter if the Writer's flicking of switches and picking up of the telephone don't incur punishment? Does science matter, and does writing matter? Does whether the Zone actually fulfil wishes matter? What is the dog about? For a straightforward narrative this film poses a heckin ton of questions that I don't have answers to, or maybe it's me making up meanings to things that simply just are, as we too often seem to do to life and works of art.
Anyway. I have so many bits of thoughts about this film that I'm not sure how will fit together. So this review might be a bit of a ramble; bear with me if you will!
I think despite the Zone being framed by the Stalker as a dangerous, unpredictable place, he ultimately sees it as a respite from the harsh and chaotic reality. From the beautiful colors of Tarkovsky's film stock to lush greenery to crumbling barb wires it is everything that the drab world outside the zone is not. Is the Zone real? Is it a construct of the Stalker's mind? He says that the Zone is where all that he has left dwells, and from there he seems to be taking an increasing amount of ownership over the Zone.
We never encounter anyone else in the Zone either, despite seeing abandoned objects that the Writer and Scientist also contribute their share to. They abandon a gun and a dismantled bomb - objects of destruction brought along for self-defence and to protect humanity (or so they say) respectively. The latter feels like it could be a commentary on the atomic bomb, albeit indirect and in a very different context.
I forgot where - probably another film - I heard the phrase "everybody thrives on hope" and I believe in that. Is it possible for one person's hope to be another's absolute despair, such as the Zone being everything to the Stalker but a ticking doomsday clock for the Scientist? I think the Zone (and whatever possessions one brings with them into it) represents the last smidgen of hope for an individual. I'm not sure where the ending fits into this, particularly after the bomb is dismantled and the Stalker comes back with doubt about the Zone's wish-fulfilling ability, but then again he also comes back with the black dog so maybe not all is lost.
I also found water fascinating in this film, both for its presence almost everywhere in the Zone and also for its sounds, which I think also occasionally make the sounds of the three men's footsteps. It's life-threatening, it's a mirror, and also like the womb, and it keeps and hides objects that I think were left from people past. What are the syringes about? It seems that science is irrelevant in the Zone but it is still able to pose a threat through the bomb so I'm not sure what to make of this either.