Tarkovsky’s The Stalker

Posted by Aspasia Stephanou on March 20, 2011 in Blog tagged with ,

Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1979  scifi film The Stalker is a highly symbolic, atmospheric,  and enigmatic journey from a deserted, imprisoning and dark Russian town ( in sepia) to the other side, the colourful, green landscapes of the Zone (colour). The stalker is a prophet who believes in ideals and fears of the end of humanity, a humanity that has lost its faith and spirituality. The film is, perhaps for this reason, significant for our times, where everything seems to be moving towards extinction. Having in mind recent disasters, the film seems relevant. An interesting point, is that after seven years of the film’s release, the Chernobyl accident took place. Those that worked in the nuclear power plant were named Stalkers and the area around the reactor the Zone.

In The Stalker, the eponymous protagonist guides people to the other side, the Zone, where nature seems to come to life and where the government prevents anyone from entering. However, because in the Zone there is a room where desires are supposedly to come true, individuals ask the stalker, a kind of shaman and a Christ-like figure, to guide them to this mysterious place. As Tarkovsky explains, whether the idea of a room where desires are fulfilled is true, or it is all the stalker’s fantasy doesn’t affect the meaning of the film (Andrei Tarkovsky: Interviews). The room is a symbol of hope, an ideal in a world where there is no more hope and where the stalker feels alienated and hopeless.Tarkovsky seems to point towards the fact that the authorities forbid entrance to this world, where desires can become true, in order to sustain stability in society. Power and dark desires can of course be destructive, as one of the travelers contemplates.

However, what is interesting in regards to the gothic, is the way nature is portrayed. Matter comes to life, nature is alive and accepts only the wretched and those who have lost every hope. But also those that know how to read the signs, the architecture of the landscape, the tricks and games of the living Zone. Everything changes fast, the stalker warns the travelers. Every moment things change, water becomes fire, paths fade, and human life is in danger in this hostile ground. While one of the travelers decides to follow his own path, disregarding the stalker’s advice, he finds himself in front of a house where suddenly an ominous voice from nowhere seems to deter his entrance to the house. Winds and fog stop the alien intruder from continuing his journey. Algernon Blackwood’s stories come to mind here. But definitely things here are different. The travelers’ sincere desires define the nature of the journey. Honesty and sincerety guarantee safety, otherwise the landscape becomes dangerous and hostile, constantly changing.

The Stalker

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