Stalker ★★★★★

Stalker is a science fiction art film featuring a mixture of elements from the science fiction genre with dramatic philosophical themes. There is a quality to Russian sci-fi that is absent in most Hollywood movies - interesting ideas. Hollywood would rather amaze us with special effects than do anything that might challenge you mentally.

A man leads an expedition through a dangerous wilderness, an area known as the Zone, to find a room, a place that is reputed to be able to fulfill a person’s deepest desires.
In the Zone, nothing is what it seems. Objects change places, the landscape shifts and rearranges itself. In the Zone, there is said to be a bunker, and in the bunker: a magical room which has the power to make wishes come true. The Stalker is the hired guide for the journey who has, through repeated visits to the Zone, become accustomed to its complex traps, pitfalls, and subtle distortions. Only by following his lead (which often involves taking the longest, most frustrating route) can the Writer and the Scientist make it alive to the bunker and the room. As the men travel farther into the Zone, they realize it may take something more than just determination to succeed: it may actually take faith. Increasingly unsure of their deepest desires, they confront the room wondering if they can, in the end, take responsibility for the fulfillment of their own wishes.

Tarkovsky regards their journey as a contemporary spiritual quest. His staging is mesmerizing, and the final scene is breathtaking. Not an easy film, but certainly a great one.

The film itself has become synonymous both with cinema's claims to high art and a test of the viewer's ability to appreciate the high art as such. Anyone sharing Cate Blanchett's enthusiasm for it - "every single frame of the film is burned into my retina" - attests not just to the director's lofty purity of purpose, but to their own capacity to survive at the challenging peaks of human achievement. So a certain amount of blowback is inevitable.

The people who made this incredible film, one of the greatest films ever, all died as a result; that is, the ones who were in the radioactive zone: Tarkovsky, the 3 male actors who entered the "zone", the photographer, and assistant director. They all died a slow death from cancer within 17 years of making this film.