Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Andreï Tarkovsky - "Stalker," 1979

Somehow I got through multiple years of film school without ever having seen a Tarkovsky film. It is my dark secret that I have unburdened upon you today. The good old Netflix database recommended I rent Stalker post-haste, based on my likes and dislikes. The Netflix database has been pretty spot on for the past few years, so I went ahead and obeyed its subtle command.

Stalker should be seen in a very dark theater, surrounded by slack-jawed, half-asleep film fanatics, to allow the meditative, textured decay to wash over you. Only in this atmosphere could we possibly hope to absorb such a dream-like, philosophical treatise on metaphysical faith and man-made disaster. Although predating Chernobyl by several years, Stalker is clearly about the aftermath of life in a frightening, poisoned environment. And tragically, it probably killed a lot of the crew, including Tarkovsky, who filmed much of the story's mythical "Zone" within a chemical spill, which is visible in some of the river scenes.

I saw Stalker in my bedroom on my tiny TV set. It was late and I was impatient. C'mon--hurry up!, I kept yelping in my head. I can't sit through these long takes of dialogue. I started fast-forwarding all the talking scenes to get to the visuals only. Super slow-paced; slow zooms; slow zoom-outs--a 70s staple of art film, and I tend to like slow-paced, 70s-era art films. Puddles, rain, drips, rot; Stalker is a feast of urban decay. Did he build these sets?, I wondered (no--they were existing abandoned buildings--among them a power plant and a chemical factory). They're fantastically lit, shot and scored. The Stalker leads a writer and a scientist to a forbidden "Zone" where there exists a room that grants wishes. But does it? I really couldn't get through it all but...

...the next day, I couldn't get Stalker out of my head. The incredibly dark, shadowy textures kept haunting my visions. Shopping for 15%-off lawn furniture at K-Mart (STALKER). Loading the car with groceries in the Winco parking lot (STALKER). Making Jackson his four-thousandth bowl of pasta with parmesan for dinner (STALKER). Obviously Andreï Tarkovsky has got my number. So I loaded the film into the computer and made a lot of gorgeous stills. I'll try to keep the number down here but now I love this film and I'm going to get more of his work and watch it on the bigger TV, if not in a theater, some day.


Stalker film stills














My favorite scene from Stalker. It's sub-titled in Romanian, but you'll get the idea (or not--I still haven't quite, but I think that's the point).

The Netflix database continues to watch my back. Today the site announced: Because you enjoyed: Seven Samurai, The Third Man, and This Is Spinal Tap; we think you'll enjoy: Wallace & Gromit: Three Amazing Adventures. I'm sure they're right. Soon we won't need humans to recommend our film choices.

3 comments:

Lars Patrik Stigsson said...

stumbled upon this. nice pics. love the film...

JB Bruno said...

Good post. Funny how some films stay with you after you had dismissed them. Did you ever go back and follow it from beginning to end without the fast forward?

Miss Lisa said...

I'm waiting for some excellent rep theater in the area puts it on the big screen. It really doesn't resonate as well on TV, but still, it continues to linger in my mind. It provides the imagery to our collective anxiety dream about the environment and health issues we can't completely control.