7 July 2017



'It's not good enough to say that STALKER is a great film- it is the reason cinema was invented.' Geoff Dyer.

'In all of cinema, I have never seen shots more dense and mysterious.'
Emmanuel Carrรจre, POSITIF.

'Tarkovsky is the greatest of them all.'
Ingmar Bergman.

Some words of praise there for STALKER, the science fiction epic from revered Soviet film-maker Andrei Tarkovsky, with whose work I'm already familiar, believe it or not. Me not ignoramus!

I recently reviewed his magnificent sci-fi film SOLARIS (1972) for THE CRITERION COLLECTION and I absolutely loved it. It's been described as 'the most intelligent science fiction film ever made,' so I was delighted with myself that I'd both enjoyed it and understood pretty much all of it. That's means I'm smrt, see? Whoops, I mean smart.

To be perfectly frank with y'all, I think that STALKER is an even better film, and I never thought I'd be saying that about any film because SOLARIS is so good.

First off, the word 'Stalker' doesn't mean what you probably think it means in this film. I've had a few regular stalkers in my time. I have one currently who's driving me nuts, an ex who texts me every week to say he thinks it's time we went our separate ways, then a day or two later he texts as if nothing's happened to ask if I 'fancy meeting up for some fun...?' Head-wrecker, that's what he is. Is he doing it on purpose, or is he just as thick as a plank? Answers on a postcard, please.

The Stalker in the film, set sometime in the undetermined future, is a youngish, good-looking Russian family man with a shaved head, good body and neat 'Seventies flares. He is the one of a select group of people who can act as guides, almost tour guides, if you will, to a heavily-guarded place called The Zone.

And why would anyone want to go to this particular place, this mysterious Zone from which some men have failed to come back? Yes, there's a lot of risk inherent in travelling through the Zone, but that's because most things worth doing are difficult to do. Going to the Zone is most definitely worth the trouble it takes to get there.

That's because in the Zone there is a Room, and in the Room man's secret desires can- and do- come true. If the Zone thinks you're the right person and you deserve it, that is. You gotta respect the sentient Zone or it won't hesitate to kick your ass.

Our Stalker, or tour guide, makes his money taking people to and from this Room in the Zone, much to the chagrin of his wife, who knows that every time he goes there he may not come back.

The Zone, which has caused the couple to have a 'mutant' child born with no legs, another source of terrible grief for the wife, is fraught with obstacles that are almost like booby-traps. She's right to be worried about her hubby, who strongly resembles the CHEERS actor Woody Harrelson, the bartender at Sam Malone's bar in the popular 'Eighties sitcom.

The Zone's fabulously wild, tangled, overgrown, rusted-metal post-apocalyptic and constantly changing landscape couldn't even be described properly in words, but would have to be seen to be believed and fully appreciated. No human beings seem to live there, but the place is littered with the occasional rotting corpse. People who tried unsuccessfully to navigate the dangers of the Zone, obviously.

Our nervy, angst-ridden Stalker spends the film guiding a Writer and scientific Professor (they're known and identified by these titles) through the spooky abandoned wilderness that comprises the Zone. The trio squabble constantly as the Stalker tries to impress upon them the unwritten rules of the capricious Zone. It's vitally important that they observe these rules as contravening them could literally cost them their lives.

They discourse philosophically as well too, at great length, I might add, about the moral questions thrown up by the Zone and in particular the Room, which could be called the Room of Secret Desires, because as we already know, the Room can grant a man this if he's sufficiently worthy and unhappy enough.

Do they deserve their heart's desire? Are they worthy? Is it morally right to accept such boons from the Room? If the Room fell into the wrong hands, what would it mean for mankind? Would it be a positive thing, or a catastrophe? Well, obviously, it would be a catastrophe, I would imagine, haha.

Either way, after such a terrible lot of soul-searching and moral agonising, even I was begging them from my comfy armchair to just hurry the feck up and get to the feckin' Room and do their feckin' business and go home to their wives and families.

But patience is a virtue, my dear Readers. The film clocks in at a whopping two hours and forty minutes, just like the equally epic SOLARIS, every minute worth its weight in gold, and you'll have to watch all of 'em one-hundred-and-sixty of 'em if you want to reach anything even approximating closure on the serious issues contained in the Zone and the Room.

I wonder what all of our secret desires would be and if the Room would consider us worthy of having 'em granted. I'd probably ask for writing success and a guy with a twelve-inch pianist in his pocket. Yeah, I said 'pianist,' so you can't report me for obscenity, haha.

This marvellous film is out on special Blu-Ray release on July 24th 2017 from THE CRITERION COLLECTION whom, as I mentioned earlier, have already released Andrei Tarkovsky's other sci-fi masterpiece, SOLARIS.

The Blu-Ray will come with some rather nifty extra features, including an essay by film critic Mark Le Fanu and a new interview with a chap called Geoff Dyer who's apparently obsessed with the film. He's written a book with a marvellous title, namely, ZONA: A BOOK ABOUT A FILM ABOUT A JOURNEY TO A ROOM. You might want to pick that up while you're at it...!

I'm off now for a bit, anyway. I'm expecting an urgent text from my stalker any minute now. Yep, there it is. We should go our separate ways, apparently. I won't get too emotional, however. There'll be another text in a minute.

Oh yeah, here it is. Now we should meet up for some 'fun,' it seems. I'll think about it. He might come in handy. At least until the Room sends me the guy with the twelve-inch pianist...


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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