Andrey Tarkovskiy, who last showed up on the 101 Sci-Fi Movies list with the epic Solaris, brings us another epic science fiction film dealing with human nature, faith, hope, inspiration, science and creation.
Something happened, was it a meteorite, was it an alien craft… no one knows. But something happened in a remote corner of the country, and despite the fact that troops were sent in, no one ever returned. Instead there was a cordon put in place around this area, referred to as The Zone, and no one was permitted entrance.
But there’s always a way.
Stalkers lead people into the area, leading them on a circuitous route, through a landscape of traps, both physical and psychological, towards the Room. It’s rumored that by entering this Room you will be granted your deepest wish. No matter how dark, or how positive.
Our Stalker (Aleksandr Kaidanovsky) agrees to lead two seekers into the Zone, simply referred to as the Scientist or Professor (Nikolai Grinko) and the Writer (Anatoli Solonitsyn). The trio set up a unique dynamic, the Stalker is a humble, almost wretched man, only truly at home within the Zone, the Professor is a man of science who seeks to categorize and understand everything, until there is no mystery or perceived beauty in it. The Writer is the opposite, seeking creativity everywhere, but is full of doubt.
Working their way past the outer guard, they make their way cautiously through the Zone, heading towards their ultimate encounter, but they may have an ulterior motive for their journey.
Much like Solaris, the film is epic in story and length, and does not make a lot of use of visual effects, it’s more of a spiritual journey that are characters are going on, as they pick a safe path out amongst the trials of the Zone. Testing their way with nuts tied to pieces of cloth to mark their way.
Tarkovskiy pulls a bit of a Wizard of Oz, filming outside the zone, with the Stalker’s family including his psychically gifted mutant daughter (Natasha Abramova), caused by his forays into the Zone, in a sepia color, but as soon as the Stalker and his party cross over into the Zone, everything switches to brilliant color.
One of the interesting things put forward is that the shortest path to your goal is not always the right one, and sometimes it’s better to take the long way around and approach your goal cautiously.
It’s interesting that moments with his daughter and the Zone are in color, suggesting that an innocence is needed to live not only in the Zone, but to see all the wonder and beauty in the world, even one as desolated and worn as the one these characters seem to exist in.
The ending of the film, both for our trio, and the little girl is intentionally ambiguous, letting one draw one’s own conclusions about it. It also allows you to draw something new from it from repeated viewings.
We never see beyond the threshold of the Room, we are left to wonder what is truly in there, and will it grant your wish, and do you have to have faith for it to work?
It’s an interesting film, and of course, completely different from the science fiction films being made in the West…
Did you see it?