Stalker (1979)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Stalker</strong> (1979)

(On Cable TV, January 2019) Despite my best intentions, I remain unmoved by Andrei Tarkovsky’s filmography. Stalker is often mentioned in “best science fiction movies” lists, but I have to wonder how much of this reputation is due to contrarianism or historical desire to annoy the USSR. (Or, within the written SF community, the excellent standing of its source novel by the Strugatsky brothers.) It’s still true that Stalker is quite unlike most Science Fiction movies even today. At nearly two hours and 45 minutes, it’s a long sit made even longer by the glacial pace of the film—and most of it only features three characters walking around industrial ruins. (Considering this and the sorry state of the set decorations on Solyaris, I have to wonder how much of Tarkovsky’s SF filmography was based on the availability of disaffected Soviet factories.) Tarkvsky, of course, isn’t some kind of rapid-fire auteur—his entire oeuvre is slow paced and you know from the second film what you’re getting into. Still, I didn’t dislike Stalker as much as I wanted to: There are a few good ideas buried under the lengthy shots, and some very clever filmmaking ideas as well—the picture shifts from sepia to colour as the characters enter the mysterious alien “zone” in which the story takes place, and Tarkovsky’s knack for striking images is not to be dismissed easily. Still, it takes an effort of will to avoid fast-forwarding through the entire thing. Tarkovsky could be ten times as interesting if he was twice as concise.

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