Friday Afternoon Movie: Stalker

It’s been a long week hasn’t it? Busy too. It seems that your inbox is always full no matter how much work you do, like everyone is clearing their desks by simply transporting everything over to you. Shit just doesn’t end. You wonder how you came to be here at this desk, writing this inter-office email, using words like “actionable” and “synergy”. How did this come to pass? No one makes their mark on this world by using “actionable”. No one. What had Murakami done by the time he was your age? Or DaVinci? Or Batman? I bet Batman wasn’t responding to emails, that’s for sure; because he’s the goddamn Batman and he doesn’t need a motherfucking desk job, Jim. His job is kicking ass, period. For real. Of course, he was also rich, which gave him the financial independence required to become the scourge of Gotham’s underworld. It’s an unfair comparison really.

All this brain power being used for introspection would be so much better spent elsewhere, don’t you think? And I don’t mean the email you’re writing. Just wrap it up. That’s it. Now hit “send”. Very good. As I was saying, your mental faculties should be applied to something worthwhile something like the Friday Afternoon Movie. Today’s FAM is Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker, based on the novel Roadside Picnic written by brothers Boris and Arkady Strugatsky, who also wrote the film’s screenplay. Like all Tarkovsky, Stalker is a slow burn. It’s two and a half hours for a reason, partly because Andrei has a whole lot of pretty and haunting things he wants to show you and partly because the characters have Something To Say. Tarkovsky is of the “love him or hate him” variety of director so your mileage may vary, but Stalker is near the top for my favorite films. Just watch the movie and try not to think about what Tarkovsky was doing when he was thirty.

9 Responses to “Friday Afternoon Movie: Stalker”

  1. christine Says:

    I love this film. One of my favorites. Now I will have to read Roadside Picnic so thanks for mentioning that! Things happen in real time–which I love about it–and I have the patience for it; but I think that aspect weeds some viewers out.

  2. nagash Says:

    That movie is nice, but I think Solaris is much better!

  3. toro Says:

    I wanted to say that I love this movie, however it seems that christine was first to say it. :)
    I doubt the fact that Roadside Picnic or Solaris would be better for me, simply because this movie is too personal for me. Only when you grow up so close to the nature, can you appreciate such a movie. Is pretty sad that I will never enjoy nature like this for the rest of my life. Also the movie theme is just brilliant. Slow burner, but it pays off pretty well.

  4. Tequila Says:

    This was a hard film to track down not too long ago. Thanks to the PC games based on this and the book (S.T.A.L.K.E.R – Shadow of Chernobyl and the more recent sequel Clear Sky.) it became easier to find. The atmosphere and the long takes are what I enjoyed the most…I’d be nice to have a quality DVD released in the US though. It may be a bit slow for most audiences but if you’re the type to be grabbed by what you see in it…shouldn’t be much of an issue.

    Then again I’m the type that sat through the 5-hour plus screening of the directors cut of Gods & Generals. You can add that film to the list Ross if you ever want to make people glad they have a mind numbing office job. :D

  5. Jonathan Says:

    I just recall watching Solaris, and thinking “Why am I watching the main character driving through Moscow? For twenty minutes?” The rest of the movie was amazing. Slow, but amazing. I, myself, couldn’t get through Roadside Picnic (my dad found a copy of it online somewhere), it got to depressing about halfway through (the sudden jump in time after the heart attack). He does own Stalker, and I’ve been meaning to watch it at some point, but haven’t gotten around to it, yet.

  6. paola Says:

    STALKER is the best movie in the world. Even for poor people like me who don’t understand Russian and must rely on the subtitles, knowing we’re missing a lot.
    it’s not only about the amazing formal beauty of some scenes (sepia might look a bit passé now, but Stalker’s imagery influenced many of the artists that shaped my life). Or the chilling idea that everything was actually going to happen quite soon (everybody now gets permits to go to the real-life Chernobyl Zone and makes Tarkovskij-like shots).

    I feel the need to point out I am ferociously atheist, but Stalker seems to me like the only movie ever that can explain what is the nature of what is sacred, and why do we need to think there is something sacred in our world, or whether do we need sacred things at all (apparently we do; the writer and the professor spout cynicism and skepticism for two hours but never cross the line at the end), even at the cost of possibly totally fabricating a sacred Zone in our head.
    There is no moment in the movie where we are not certain whether the Stalker is a saintly figure or just a delirious madman. Even the daughter may or may not be psychic, and her apparent telekynesis might have a very mundane reason if you watch the scene attentively (which you will not if it’s the first time, because you’ll just be amazed at the poetic beauty of it all).

  7. Ross Rosenberg Says:

    Tequila – I keep wondering why the hell Criterion hasn’t released an edition of it yet. Maybe copyright issues or something.

  8. christine Says:

    Both Solaris and Stalker have these longs scenes (esp. a certain hallway scene in Solaris) where not much happens and they give me the feeling that I am simply hanging out in the movie.

  9. Tequila Says:

    @The Madman named Ross Rosenberg…It’s been fairly recent that Criterion has been releasing more of Tarkovsky’s work. Could just be the case of finding all the proper elements like a print that’s not scratched to hell and back.