Learning from films: Stalker

 
The new Geoff Dyer book Zona: A Book About a Film About a Journey to a Room, is a light take on a heavy film — Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker. In a notable passage, Dyer talks about the time span in our life that we’re receptive to forming our personal favorite works of art. The time in our late teens and twenties when certain films, books, and music become our lifelong favorites. For me, some of these films were Brazil, Blade Runner, and Blue Velvet. At a certain point, this openness may not come naturally anymore. Those of you who are over 40 know what I’m talking about. I want to stay open to that feeling.

I’ve been following author and free-jazz aficionado Jeff Jackson’s Destination Out for a long time, and I’m also connected to him on Goodreads where he gave Zona a favorable review. I really enjoyed Dyer’s photography book, The Ongoing Moment, so I picked up a copy of Zona, and rented Tarkovsky’s Stalker.

If we’re lucky, every once in a while we encounter a work of art that changes our perception of how deeply art can affect us. Something truly exceptional. Stalker is a mind-blowing film. If you’re interested in the strange time warps and dream states that can be encountered in night photography, Stalker is an amazing journey. I’ve never seen a film that captures the state of hyper-awareness of exploring abandoned places so well. The intense attention to every little sound and texture. And the location in Stalker takes on a life of its own.

So do you remember the time period in your life when you were most receptive to artistic input? When a 2 1/2 hour subtitled movie was something to look forward to? If you’re open to that feeling, watch Stalker and let me know what you think.

Stalker is on DVD at Netflix but not available streaming. The DVD is $16-24 at Amazon, or perhaps you’re lucky enough to have a good local video rental store.

If you’re not familiar with the film at all, I encourage you not to look up Stalker online. Don’t look at YouTube or IMDB. Just track down the DVD and set aside the time to watch. If you enjoy the film, Dyer’s book is a lot of fun. If enough people who live in the San Francisco Bay Area are interested in discussing the film and the book, I will schedule a meetup at a bar in April to compare notes. Until then, enjoy your trip to the Zone.

4 thoughts on “Learning from films: Stalker”

  1. Hi Joe
    Just finished watching Stalker and I agree with your comments about exploring abandoned places. It is quite a film. Next I will read the book about it. Thanks for the recommendation. Could you explain the ending to me? ;)

    1. Hi Dave – Glad you enjoyed Stalker. The Dyer book is a lot of fun and also thought provoking.

      The ending? Did they actually leave the bar or was it all a dream? Does the Zone have the powers that the Stalker claims? Perhaps the ending gives us faith that there really is a mysterious power at work in the Zone.

  2. The locations are staggeringly beautiful, the mood and atmosphere, proto-Lynchian (meant in the best way). I wanna night shoot those in locations. Loved the soundscape and mix of film stock too.

    But I’ll be damned if I knew WHAT was happening through most of the movie, let alone the ending. A seriously incomprehensible flick for this dumb monkey.

    Now excuse me while I throw a nut to find my way back to my camera . . .

    1. Hey Uncle Troy – Cool that you watched Stalker! On the surface, the only thing to comprehend is that they go to the Zone because they are desperate men who want their innermost wish fulfilled. Or do they?

      And throwing nuts may be a good way to help narrow down compositional choices in the junkyard next moon.

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