Stalker, an Unorthodox Quest to Maddening Uncertainties

The unorthodox approach of Tarkovsky towards complex themes doesn’t require an intensive course of studies before viewing his works. But, like all of his seven feature films, Stalker genuinely rewards patience. Being an icon of Russian filmmaking, Tarkovsky speaks for his work in impenetrable and sometimes intricate terms. Stuffed with several meanings embedded in metaphors, Stalker possesses the potential to inspire an academic avalanche.

The test of this remarkable work doesn’t lie within its relevance to the events of the modern world. Ever since the crippling of the nuclear power plant of Fukushima, the movie is a mournful companion to the crisis. It is still open for the acrimonious debates because of its link with Chernobyl. The filmmaker got to stick to a theme that led to the reverberation of meanings. Stalker was loosely based on Boris Strugatsky’s sci-fi novella Roadside Picnic. There is a prophetic vision of Tarkovsky in “zone”, the forbidden area in which laws of nature doesn’t work and to which “stalkers” lead expedition to recover lost artifacts. Moreover, the “Room” was a place of attraction for people with innate greed as the place magically seemed to grant its entrants their dearest wishes.

Tarkovsky’s style is jaw-droppingly impressive when he considers paring away from the overt and obvious elements of science fictions stories. He takes longer takes to grasp the attention span of audience and crafts the mise-en-scene in such a way that the targeted audience struggles to relate Stalker, Writer, and Professor to their world. The severely-simple narrative of a quest of three men propels one forward to know more about the story. But the articulately presented ever-increasing perils and hardships of their journey keeps one always up on the toes. There is an obvious spiritual and physical drain felt by the three central characters imposed on them by invisible factors. It was a journey that was adaptively changing itself depending on the travelers such that there was no hard and fast rule to crack a certain path towards Room. Stalker states this impressive feature of their journey as, “Our moods, our thoughts, our emotions, our feelings can bring about change here. And we are in no condition to comprehend them….… everything that happens here depends on us, not on the Zone.”

This specific pride and significance of the Zone that it was deadly, nonlinear and unpredictable empower the film. Like many givens in the normal world, the three men in the movie and the viewers were bound to accept the laws of Zone for two hours and forty-one minutes. Thus, instead of imposing a visually fantasy-like world, Tarkovsky stages his philosophical saga in the world known to everyone. The field-tension generated by him makes the surroundings even more vivid. This generates a sense of empathy where viewer also starts looking for the traps and evoke some hidden meanings out of the jumbled landscape.

Surprisingly, the nonlinear vision of Tarkovsky was not largely supported with special effects. Along with several strange and privileged moments, there were a few comic moments to release tension. But, despite maddening uncertainties of the Zone, the most potent juncture of the plot like was its demand to construct a narrative and meaning from an open end.