The Essential Movie Library #32: Stalker (1979) - The Culture Files Blog - Los Angeles magazine
 
 

The Essential Movie Library #32: Stalker (1979)

A dark, dreamy exploration of the human spirit

Picking up somewhere on the other side of civilization’s demise as documented by Godard’s Weekend (Essential Movie Library #31), Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky’s “stalker” longs to be a holy fool if only he can find the faith. When he can’t, he’s an “eternal prisoner” instead, as his wife calls him at the end of this spellbinding film that visually unfolds in steampunk sepias and inky miasmas. The stalker is a man of eyes and ears leading two other men—one of words and one of science—out of their contemporary ruins into the forbidden Zone, the hub of which is the Room, a kind of decrepit cathedral where the lost and nihilistic make pilgrimage when their brilliance isn’t enough to understand what’s missing from the world. Beneath the stalker’s reverence is dread that the Zone won’t deliver him to a place beyond doubt after all. “When a man thinks of the past, he becomes kinder,” he half declares and half wonders—the subtext of a movie about a maybe-future that resembles the maybe-present of David Lynch’s Eraserhead, made around the same time half a planet away. When a dream is a memory of the future, however, the future is authenticated by what’s unanswered; this movie is haunted by its questions.

That Tarkovsky, increasingly at odds in his life and career with the godless Soviet Union, is the most spiritually obsessed of great filmmakers isn’t ironic but inevitable. Here he’s as determined to map his own inner quest as the movie’s eponymous voyager, apropos for a filmmaker who would shoot such a movie all over again when the original negative proved unusable. Not only is Stalker outside of time but, watching it, the viewer tumbles outside time as well, the movie imposing its own sense of temporal passage, the rest of the world having stopped during nearly three hours that feel as consuming as lifetimes and as fleeting as moments.

Read them all:
The Essential Movie Library #31: Weekend
The Essential Movie Library #30: Some Like It Hot
The Essential Movie Library #29: Red River
The Essential Movie Library #28: The Passenger
The Essential Movie Library #27: Singin' in the Rain
The Essential Movie Library #26: Heat
The Essential Movie Library #25: L'Atalante
The Essential Movie Library #24: Sunrise
The Essential Movie Library #23: His Girl Friday
The Essential Movie Library #22: Black Narcissus
The Essential Movie Library #21: Blade Runner
The Essential Movie Library #20: Persona
The Essential Movie Library #19: The Shop Around the Corner
The Essential Movie Library #18: Lost Highway
The Essential Movie Library #17: Tokyo Story
The Essential Movie Library #16: 8 1/2

The Essential Movie Library #15: City Lights
The Essential Movie Library #14: Seven Samurai
The Essential Movie Library #13: Lawrence of Arabia
The Essential Movie Library #12: Citizen Kane
The Essential Movie Library #11: Jules and Jim
The Essential Movie Library #10: My Darling Clementine 
The Essential Movie Library #9: Double Indemnity 
The Essential Movie Library #8: That Obscure Object of Desire 
The Essential Movie Library #7: 2001: A Space Odyssey 
The Essential Movie Library #6: Casablanca
The Essential Movie Library #5: The Lady Eve
The Essential Movie Library #4: The Third Man 
The Essential Movie Library #3: The Passion of Joan of Arc 
The Essential Movie Library #2: Vertigo 
The Essential Movie Library #1: The Godfather Trilogy

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