Three Reasons: Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker (1979)

andrei tarkovsky stalker 1979
Believe it or not: Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker is not part of the Criterion Collection, so they can’t do one of their famous Three Reasons videos, but I can. Why? Because I’m above the law. Just kidding. I only watched this classic masterpiece the other day for the first time and since I’m sure there are thousands of reviews about it on the web, I decided to just mention three reasons why I loved it so much. If you enjoy the Three Reasons series you can find more in the new blog section called The Reasons (under Lists). Thanks & Enjoy. 

Reason I: Andrei Tarkovsky Style
andrei tarkovsky style
I’m starting to slowly get into director Andrei Tarkovsky’s impressive filmography and the more of him I see, the more I love him as a director and an auteur. He has a very classical filmmaking style, that I could only compare to Stanley Kubrick, so if you like his films, you should love Tarkovsky. If you prefer more modern or contemporary filmmakers, Lars von Trier has been called our Tarkovsky by Shia LaBeouf. I somewhat agree. What I’ve noticed stylistically is that he has a very clear vision of how he wants his film to look and feel.

In fact you can immediately tell you’re watching an Andrei Tarkovsky film, just by looking at it. It’s a very distinct aesthetic. He loves to film nature, but it’s almost as if nature was dead or evil in his films, if that makes sense. His films also have a very unique and specific pacing, which might take some getting used to, but that’s actually my reason II. I also noticed that he loves the color green, brownish and sepia toned images. I’m not a big fan of sepia, but he uses it a lot to contrast the color cinematography in Stalker and it works.

In terms of themes I always feel that his films have multiple layers. It’s never easy to really know or decipher what he’s trying to say, but you always sense that there’s more than meets the eye. There’s a lot of stuff going on beneath the surface. A lot of philosophical ideas, but that’s my reason III, so more on that to follow. His characters also seem to be obsessed with something. Something they can’t fully understand or put into words. I love that. There’s also a sense of desolation and desperation in his pictures, which makes for a very uneasy atmosphere and makes you feel that anything could happen.

Reason II: The Slow Pacing
the slow pacing
When done right I am a big fan of incredibly slow films. Stalker is not that slow, there is a story and things happening, but still it’s well over two-hour long and most I’m sure most films would have told the story at a much brisker pace. What I love about slow-paced films is that they allow the viewer to be immersed in the story. You almost feel as if your part of the film, you feel there with the characters. Of course there’s a fine line between slow-paced and boring, but I think that the key is if you care about the characters and buy into the premise of the film.

The premise of Stalker is that there’s this guy, the stalker, who takes people into the zone, a place where something weird (possibly otherworldly or supernatural) happened. So now there’s a room where it is said that your innermost wishes come true. The thing is that the zone is dangerous and so he’s kind of their guide. It reminded me a bit of Lost and I’m pretty sure J.J. Abrams borrowed a lot from this film. What Tarkovsky does with this premise is basically create a smart adventure film. It’s not about action, but rather the ethical, moral questions etc. that arise from the existence of “the room”.

Reason III: The Philosophical Implications
the philosophical implications
I’ll be upfront here: I didn’t read any explanations to this film, so this is purely my interpretation which might be completely wrong, but I don’t care. I’m saying philosophical implications, but Stalker really raises all sorts of questions: Moral, ethical, political, psychological, sociological, historical, spiritual, religious, scientific, metaphysical, artistic and I think I could go on and on. It’s an incredibly rich film. The most significant scene for me is when the characters don’t actually enter the room. They’re afraid of their innermost wishes. What if it’s something bad?

What does it mean to be happy? Do we really want our wishes to come true? Do we know how? It’s fascinating to think about. This film gives you a lot to think about. Especially if you’re a Christian I’m sure you noticed how the main character, Stalker, is (or thinks he is, it doesn’t matter) a Christ figure. He selflessly wants to help people, but they reject him. He promises them true fulfillment, but they don’t believe in him. Does that remind you of anyone? No? Well, Jesus of course. He came to this world to save people, but they crucified him instead. Stalker doesn’t get crucified, but he does have a nervous breakdown at the end.

The ending of this film is a mystery to me, I will read up on it, but I first want to let it sink in a little. If you’ve seen Stalker you know what I’m talking about: All the telekinetic stuff. Does that mean his son went into the room? I don’t know what to think. Very weird. Anyway, Those are my three reasons. What are yours?

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6 comments

  1. Annie Oakley

    This film was sooooooooo promising and is a master piece but I have to say that although I was still engrossed toward the end it did get a little lost. My daughter absolutely LOVES the ending, although that is not the best part of the film for me. I think it is made more poignant by the fact that the making of it caused the deaths of him and some the actors and crew. Nice review

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