Tuesday, October 16, 2012


At the end of Andrei Tarkovsky’s mesmerising ‘Stalker’ (1979), the dejected protagonist, the Stalker of the title, returns home, and mourns how the humankind has lost the sense of faith. ‘Stalker’ is perhaps the only film in the world which is about religion, or spirituality, without uttering those words at all. The film depicts a menacing and mesmerising world, where everything is bleak and yet full of hope.

Something happened in a small town somewhere, a meteorite or something, and a vast area in the town was destroyed and later sealed. In that forbidden land, now known as The Zone, there’s a room, it is said, which can fulfil any wishes. And, there’s this guy, the Stalker, who will lead you to the room, for a price, if you so want. But, there’s more to this place than meets the eye...

As the film ends, the Stalker mourns: “No one needs that room. And all my efforts are just in vain.”

But, hope can never be lost. Says the Stalker: “Let everything that's been planned come true. Let them believe. And let them have a laugh at their passions. Because what they call passion actually is not some emotional energy, but just the friction between their souls and the outside world. And most important, let them believe in themselves. Let them be helpless like children, because weakness is a great thing, and strength is nothing. When a man is just born, he is weak and flexible. When he dies, he is hard and insensitive. When a tree is growing, it's tender and pliant. But when it's dry and hard, it dies. Hardness and strength are death's companions. Pliancy and weakness are expressions of the freshness of being. Because what has hardened will never win.”

This is one film I cannot watch, and I cannot stop watching. I have seen the film numerous times, and saw it again, last night. I am not alone...

Writes Geoff Dyer in The Guardian on Friday 6 February 2009:
I've seen Stalker more times than any film except The Great Escape. I've seen it when the projectionist got the reels in the wrong order (I was the only person who noticed), I've seen it on my own in Paris and dubbed into Italian in Rome, I've seen it on acid (remember that sequence when the solid ground begins to ripple?) and I've seen it on telly - and it's never quite as I remember. Like the Zone, it's always changing. Like the Stalker, I feel quite at home in it, but whenever I see the film I try to imagine what it might be like, watching it for the first time when it seems so weird.

Dyer ends the long piece
Since there are people out there who have not yet had Stalker burned into their retinas, and given the film's zero-gravity suspense - is anything going to happen? - I propose to leave it there, before the blissful shift into colour, before we glimpse the wonders of the Zone, ages before the miracle of the film's closing sequence. But three further observations won't spoil anyone's enjoyment. ... One: despite their scepticism, Writer and Professor sufficiently buy into the Stalker's soggy faith that they end up wading, shoulder-deep, through radioactive-looking water without even removing their overcoats. Two: near the end, the Writer puts a crown of thorns on his head. Biblical? I dunno. Everything just is. Or isn't, but may be. Three: at a certain point the audacious claim is made that the reason we were put on earth was to create works of art. By the same token, it's not enough to say that Stalker is a great film - it is the reason cinema was invented.
More here.

PS: And, I remember I have written about ‘Stalker’ on these pages earlier as well.

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