Article 4708 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky
Featuring Alisa Freyndlikh, Aleksandr Kaydanovskiy, Anatoliy Solonitsyn
Country: Soviet Union
What it is: Metaphorical Science Fiction
A writer and a professor hire a guide (called a Stalker) to lead them into a forbidden area known as the Zone, a place that is believed to contain a room that will grant each person’s innermost wish to them.
Since I’ve seen SOLARIS, I’ve encountered Tarkovsky before, and the two-and-a-half-hour plus running time of this one certainly gave me an idea of what to expect; that’s a pretty hefty length for a movie that mostly consists of three men wandering around a partially decayed urban environment being reclaimed by nature. I’m not surprised that some people find this one boring. However, at about the halfway point in this movie one of the characters begins musing about the nature of music, an art form that has virtually no contact with reality but still manages to reach the souls of men. That is perhaps about as good a metaphor as any to describe how this movie managed to fascinate and entrance me even when there was nothing I could point to on the surface was giving me cause for interest. Part of the appeal was no doubt Tarkovsky’s fascinating visual sense, especially in his use of shifting color palettes as the action moves from location to location. Furthermore, all of the locations are fascinating to look at, even if they’re certainly not pretty or beautiful in any conventional sense. I won’t pretend that I understood all of the subtleties of the dialogue or the motivations of the characters (and, given that this is a Russian movie on which I have to rely on translation into English, I may never pick up on everything), but there is enough here to get a sense of the sadness of human nature and the ultimate tragedy of the Stalker’s life. I was especially surprised when the movie managed to get a laugh out of me at one point (in a scene involving a telephone). Ultimately, I was fascinated by the movie, and I hope to be able to watch it again sometime now that I have an idea of what events it is leading up to; there appears to be a great deal of food for thought here.