Stalker ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

"A man writes because he is tormented, because he doubts. He needs to constantly prove to himself and the others that he's worth something. And if I know for sure that I'm a genius? Why write then? What the hell for?"

Tarkovsky's filmography, specifically this film, have long intimidated me more than any other films out there. Somehow the idea of 1960s and 70s Russian films that often reach nearly three hours in running time and are often described as "visual poetry," and the devoted reverence of Tarkovsky admirers coupled to inspire dread in me rather than intrigue. Afraid of being confronted with incredible works of art that I may be too dense to appreciate, or even worse, simply bored by, I've tiptoed carefully around his movies for over a year now. At 1 am on a Thursday night, lying in bed mildly depressed but not tired, I decided it was time to just go for it.

I feel like usually when I first watch movies this massive, I have a hard time writing anything, especially a coherent review. But the quote above applies to me- getting things written out helps me process the vague ideas that aren't connecting in my head, and feel like I have claimed a little of it for myself. And I want to prove that I have substance and real thoughts. But what really can I have to say about a movie this big and with this much of a legacy? Nothing about the actual movie, but my experience is unique to me. In an effort to do less of the former even if it means more of the latter, here is something.

Sometime during the day after watching this, what struck me the most is how nothing actually happens. I went back and read through the plot to make sure I wasn't forgetting something. Due to the incredibly intricate way this movie is filmed and developed, there is impending dread and a tremendous sense of importance placed on every moment. But there is no solid evidence that the perceived danger is real- we see alarming visuals, but nothing ever happens- we have to believe in it. Every moment of this journey seems lofty and important, and the dialogue is cutting and authentic- and yet no action or conflict ever takes place physically, and the characters are shown to be dishonest or at best conflicted and unsure of themselves. In the absence of big events and plot twists, everything is important.

At a time when I am approaching graduation, and wanting to move out of my city to someplace foreign and scary and new, and trying to figure out what I want to do and what I am meant to do and somewhere in all of that never able to figure out what we are all supposed to be doing here, this struck a chord with me.

Yesterday I was hired to start working as a server at a chain restaurant, and I had the realization that this could be my life. I have this constant impending sense of immediacy of making my time count coupled with the vague feeling that I am just preparing for my real life that has not quite started yet, and the even vaguer feeling of a "calling" and sense of accountability to something higher to live in a higher state of mind and action. And something about the transitory lifestyle of going to college and living in a college town and having deadlines and decisions make all of these feelings easier. And yesterday was maybe the first time I realized that this could be it, I could live in my cheap house and work this job and forget all of the future pursuits I feel so tied to.

And I think this thought kind of stems from my experience watching Stalker, this idea that maybe all of this stuff, all of these things that seem so important and immediate can't be proven- maybe they don't come from anywhere, and maybe they are removed, and maybe they are not that big of a deal. But yet we need them to keep living. Without the incredible depth and danger and beauty of the Zone, there would be no story. And if the movie is in some way a metaphor for the journey we all must take through our lives (or maybe just those who seek to pursue art or knowledge in a way that is central to our life), then we need these things for our own survival and existence. Maybe we aren't called for some great purpose, and maybe if we are we can never know we are, and maybe none of these things we make up our lives with are really that deep or that important, but maybe we still need them.

And maybe even if we can't prove that any of these things are real, passions and projects and purpose, we need to believe that they are. And maybe, even if we can't prove that these things are real, they really are. Like Stalker, maybe we will never feel happy or whole the way we think we might be, but maybe we just need this to survive.

I didn't know exactly how these two things tied together before I started writing this, and maybe I am just following logical connections because I want things to be neat and encouraging, neither of which this movie really is. And maybe I feel the need to prove that I got something from this movie and that my thoughts are worthwhile.

I want to write about the ending, and how it relates to my biggest fear of self justification and how we have the capacity to lie ourselves about our very core and really believe it. And i want to write something about the journey into the Zone, and how beautiful and captivating it is, and how if I had seen it prior maybe I wouldn't be quite so impressed by the world-building and cinematography in Children of Men, how it is so compelling that I went back to rewatch it as I fell asleep last night.

But I know that I am already way longwinded, and that I am probably only writing this for myself, and that my neatly-tied paragraphs don't even come close to reflecting the massive and seemingly impermeable scope of this movie. I haven't even let myself start thinking about the final minutes of the movie, let alone claim to get some sort of understanding from them.

I guess I can just end this by saying that I like the idea of a long, slow, infinitely perplexing yet vaguely beautiful movie as a metaphor for the things that we place at the core of our lives, whether that is art, or sense of self, or religion, or maybe all of these at once. And I like the idea that if I rewatch this movie, and if I continue to try to piece together everything that occurs and is examined, I will be rewarded with a vastly increased amount to think about. And I like the idea that life is the same.

"A man writes because he is tormented, because he doubts. He needs to constantly prove to himself and the others that he's worth something. And if I know for sure that I'm a genius? Why write then? What the hell for?"

Christian liked these reviews