Stalker

Stalker ★★★★★

I'm tired of being the dissenting voice in the room. Tarkovsky has something, and I was wrong.

There... I said it.

Solaris had bored me to tears... I thought it brilliant, but it bored me to tears. Stalker however, is an altogether different beast.

I watched the 1979 classic about a month or so ago (this review is written as of November 25th), yet I hadn't realized it's greatness until... just now. I tried to recall a recent dream, and nearly mistook it for my memory of Stalker. I had remembered the film as a dream.

Stalker has made more sense since this revelation, especially in regards to my opinion of Andrei Tarkovsky. Prior to watching Stalker, I felt dread. I was in fear of having to sit down for nearly three hours and watch something which I know will not only be cerebral or slow-paced, but actively, aggressively boring.

And yes, Stalker is boring. It is very boring; but it works.

The film takes on the form of a fairy tale, and remains as resonant as any Grimm Brothers storyline you've ever read. It's premise is simple. It's characters are unnamed. The plot seems non-existent, or too abstract to be interpreted on a first, second, or even third viewing. Yet the film is powerful.

A hugeness is felt as one watches Stalker, a sense of towering importance which all great works of art demand for themselves. Painfully slow as the film maybe, it forces your hand and you watch uncontrollably.

But let's come back to earth for just a moment and ask a question whom anybody praising Stalker is primed to ask: what is it about? The better question to ask would be if it matters, and if it shouldn't be gratifying enough that the film inspires such a question to be pronounced with genuine intent.

The general mystery of what Stalker actually is might simultaneously be the most exciting and haunting question to be asked in world cinema. We see the story of three individuals going into a place called "The Zone" in search of a room which grants wishes. Yet through it's three hour running time, Stalker seems to be so much more than this simple premise, and also so much less.

Most of Stalker is simply a distraction, or a daydream. We take so much time to follow a character across a short trail of grass, a small tunnel, an underground water reclamation facility. It seems that these sequences should've been boring, that my eyelids should have been baggy and ugly just as they were through Solaris, yet they remained as wet and alive as ever.

I sat in awe of this emptiness, of the baffling scene lengths, of the didactic nature of travelling from point A to point B. Stalker is a film which is so slow, so methodical, that it pulls you into the world it inhabits with the quietest grip I think possible. I felt as though these characters; the writer, the professor, the stalker, were all dwarfs marching on the back of some great biblical serpent, whose body itself had become the Garden of Eden, and from whom escape was impossible.

How can such a feeling of dread enrapture the viewer? Even through a scene as seemingly innocent as the writer crossing a garden, I was sure that the man could've taken three steps to the right, veered off too far from the trail laid out by "The Zone," and then disappeared into the ether. I waited the entire film for someone to make a wrong step in "The Zone," for that someone to end up like a small crumpled origami, or flattened plate of dough, and yet no one ever seemed to.

Was there ever really any danger at all in the zone? Was the Stalker fed lies all these years by Porcupine? Would the room have really done anything at all?

These questions are what feeds the lasting flame that is Stalker, they're what keeps the film young for a generation of moviegoers still eager for an experience unlike any other, and they're what will allow the film to live forever.

They're also the questions which keep me up at night, and which won't let go of me as I drift off into sleep and mistake my dreams for visions of "The Zone" and vice versa.

Stalker is one of the few films which you will actually have to live with after you've seen it. The question is whether or not it's worth the trouble.