This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Frank Ritz’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
It’s been days since I’ve watched this again, and I still don’t know what to grade it. Obviously you all can see my decision, but in this moment I’m still unsure. During the first 2/3 I was confident it was a 5, and possibly my favorite Tarkovsky (it was my fifth favorite after seeing all of them once). But that final 1/3, just like my first viewing is just. So slow and meandering, and yet, I know this is the point.
It’s the anti-2001. These men are going on a journey to this magical zone, where there is a room where their truest desires will be granted, and when they arrive, they discover (basically) it’s all a sham, they don’t even enter the room.
This movie is Tarkovsky’s mind battling itself in circles between its three characters. It’s pretty evident this is a writer trying to figure out his life, and if there’s any meaning. Many of his films are mediation’s on faith, Russian society, and film itself (specifically his own), and this is definitely no different. The plus side to Stalker, is it has a more cohesive thread to follow, and is therefore less taxing mentally. I always understood the message he was trying to convey, which I think on my first viewing (after Mirror which is the antithesis of just that) bothered me, but here it was a god-send.
It’s an impressive feat of filmmaking regardless of anything. His cinematic language is out-of-this-world, and completely singular. I felt baffled for most of this, unsure of how he got the shots he did. Gorgeous framing, a lot of flat images, looooooong tracking shots, and those unnerving zooms. It’s very Kubrickian, but instead of a captivating story at the forefront, Tarkovsky is much more poetic and meditative.
The images won’t leave my brain, and I’m still thinking about it days later, so it makes me want to say it’s a five star movie, BUT. I must say, like many of his movies, it’s not reAlly enjoyable to watch. After an exciting 2/3 it hits a dull dead stop, and I was fighting to stay awake. They’re sooooo slow, and require so much mental attention, I think I wear myself down watching it. My favorite kind of movie is one where I have to deconstruct meaning as I’m watching, but, good ol’ Andrei really tests my limits.
Fine. Five stars it is. And moving to my third favorite (behind Mirror and The Sacrifice), which could change upon future viewings.
I will return to The Zone.