An Immediate Reaction to Watching "Stalker" (AKA What the Hell was That?)

Tonight I set out to watch all two hours and forty minutes of Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1979 masterpiece, Stalker. Though my interest in this film has been building over the last few months, my decision to view the movie tonight was an immediate one. When it comes to watching old foreign films, I always feel that I need a pep talk, the needle from Pulp Fiction and eight espressos before sitting down to watch. For whatever, reason, my concentration and focus seemed up to those standards tonight, so I pulled the trigger. I inserted the DVD, pressed play on the remote, and sunk into the couch. And thank God I did. 

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Stalker is simply brilliant. Not only does the movie present a beautiful experience complete with overt religious imagery and grand impressions of beautiful artwork but it conquers the visual realm in a subconscious manner as it wholly envelopes you in a thrilling story. 

If you are unfamiliar with the film, Stalker is a science fiction movie that follows three men who venture into the “Zone” in search of a room that grants those who enter all that they desire. Though it was released in the same year, Stalker has none of the science fiction elements of Alien. Where Alien bet on monsters bursting through chest cavities to deliver its thrills, Stalker presented a room full of sand as the peak of its shocking imagery - and it’s way creepier than John Hurt’s heartburn at the dinner table.

And the dialogue! This was the type of the movie where someone says a line, and you just have to press pause to simultaneously applaud the actors and the writers for the logic they just spat while high fiving your dog who thinks you have truly lost your mind. Don’t worry, I only did this twice. 

Here are some of those lines:

“My consciousness desires the victory of vegetarianism in the whole world, but my unconsciousness dreams about a piece of juicy meat. And what do I want?”

“If there was no grief in our life, it would not be better, it would be worse. Because then there would be ... neither happiness, nor hope. That’s it.”

“What, hell with it, am I for a writer, if I hate to write? If for me it is a torture, an illness-like, shameful occupation, something like hemorrhoids. And I did think earlier that somebody becomes better because of my books. But nobody needs me! I will croak, and in two days they will forget me and begin devouring somebody else.”

I know that this article risks diving deep into the thesaurus of a pretentious reviewer so I’ll copy and paste some of the notes I took on my phone as I watched the movie to convey my most immediate reactions:

“Holy Shit. This is like if a group of college students made a narrative feature about people making a documentary on Chernobyl. The students, however, only had an abandoned farm to use as their set and halfway through they decided they wanted to make the movie about Lord of the Rings.”

“So these guys are searching for a room that grants people what they desire and one guy comes out with a dog? I think that confirms that dogs are the key to happiness, right?”

“Wait is this chick Matilda? This chick is Matilda!”

So yeah… I think it’s fair to say I have quite a few questions that I’ll be bringing into my next viewing. 

But for now, I’m going to watch Shaun of the Dead for the 27th time and consider the most critical question of all: “Can dogs look up?”

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