While a key work of the supposed 'slow cinema' movement, the first half of Stalker is actually briskly paced & relatively action packed; easing us into a mesmerising second-act expedition that connects the physical to the metaphysical in a profoundly dramatic way. Tarkovsky's aesthetic had matured into something unique here; his reflections on nature & existence finding the perfect expression in both content & form.
**1/2 This was not an enjoyable experience. Though instrumental to my early days as a cinephile, Tarkovsky's 70s works currently seem to me to be nearly insufferable. Though divided into clearly delineated movements, the film's structure from scene-to-scene is surprisingly amorphous. The allegory is emphasized at the expense of all else. Style is predictable, the philosophical underpinning remains naive & elementary.
Tarkovsky's sci-fi magnum opus lingers in the psyche well after viewing. The "zone" is so open to interpretation; its radioactive space so filled with allegorical weight. Few directors can evoke such lucidity; who can beguile, shock, confuse and transcend. Tarkovsky's 'Stalker' is not merely a provocative name, it is primarily a psychological and philosophical journey rather than a linear narrative.
I rewatched this yesterday at the theater and I have to say it was an even more incredible experience. Stalker it's transcendent as a movie: in its philosophy and in its technique. Tarkovsky makes nature look like magic.
This is Tarkovsky going further than he did with Solaris and the result is something truly spectacular. Tarkovsky made science fiction for the art house crowd but his films are way more than that. They are a vast poem of emotions from a true master of the cinema.
Probably and apart "Andrei Rublev", this remains the most fascinating densely Tarkovsky film, despite the tangential with "Solaris", another magnificent film. In fact, the universe of science fiction is, with this filmmaker, an appeal of an existential and metaphysical combination (in a pictorial-physical form) of the usual dissonance between science and belief, being that an immanence of this one, both substance.
There is a quality to Russian sci-fi that is absent in most Hollywood movies. Interesting ideas. Hollywood would rather amaze you with special effects than do anything that might challenge you mentally.
It truly amuses me how Tarkovsky and the film crew were able to pull this off given the fact that he took a year shooting outdoor scenes, only to find out that their footage was improperly developed and unusable. He re-shot the film, hence the mix of sepia and color footage. On top of that, several people involved in the production including Tarkovsky died due to toxic locations. Truly one of the greatest films ever!