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STALKER
1979 - Andrei Tarkovsky
Soviet Union / West Germany
95
Opening Shot

Stalker fades in to a sepia-toned composition of an opened doorway. The camera slowly pans through the doorway and into the bedroom where a mother and father are sleeping with their child. The offscreen sounds of a train are heard as we see a glass of water aside the bed begin to move from the train. Then we see a closeup as the camera pans back and forth through the bed starting and ending with the mother (whose eyes are awake as the shot returns). The man, who was awake, gets out of the bed and closes the door...

The Film

This film is incredible! Absolutely breathtaking! This film represents the art of cinema in the truest sense. Andrei Tarkovsky's 1979 film Stalker contains some of the most amazing visuals ever created in a film. It also is an emotionally thought-provoking exploration of the hope, sacrifice, illusion, the failure of the human race caused by desire. Like most Tarkovsky films, Stalker leaves for several interpretations and raises interesting questions through it's beautifully poetic images. Simply watching the films imagery will blow you away, but it's message is just as brilliant and deeply powerful. I think Tarkovsky, among other issues, believes the genuine life is in those that sacrifice as opposed to those who act selfishly. There's not a moment or frame wasted throughout the entire 161 minutes. Tarkovsky is one of cinemas all-time great masters of visual compositions and here may lie his most visually mystifying achievements, as he uses camera framing and movement to further heighten this films lyrical and spiritual sense of mysterious subconscious atmosphere. By blending together various feelings of hope, nightmares, dreams Stalker is a film that lingers with an emotional reflection of longing. Tarkovsky is one of the greatest visionary filmmakers of all-time, and to me, Stalker may be his greatest masterpiece (or at least alongside his most poetic and most personal masterwork 1975's The Mirror). It's a film that truly leaves me speechless. This is a film of unmatchable, breathtakingly beautiful artistic vision and poetry. Stalker is an absolute work of art and represents everything brilliant about cinema! It is one of the greatest films ever made!

The Filmmaker

Andrei Tarkovsky rates among cinema's greatest poetic visionaries and certainly one of the key filmmakers of Russia during the 20th century. An artist who made films strictly with a personal and poetic vision, Tarkovsky's films rate alongside the most beautiful and spiritual ever made. Obviously his approach to filmmaking will divide audiences, but those willing to be challenged to Tarkovksy's cinema are left blown away with his genius vision. Simply in terms of imagery, few filmmakers rival the breathtaking beauty of Tarkovsky. Tarkovsky's films are slow but in a way that is meditative and ultimately transcendent. His films take the viewer into astonishing cinematic universes- be it of the historic past (Ivan's Childhood; Andrei Rublev); dream universes (Nostalgia); or imaginary universes (Stalker; Solaris; The Sacrifice); or even autobiographic universes (The Mirror). Memories and dreams are always present within these universes, which often are absorbed by imagery of nature. Tarkovsky was born the son of a poet and the influence is reflective of his filmmaking. A true master of cinematic space and time, Tarkovsky has openly criticized the "montage" style of filmmaking and the intentions of making films "with a message", but rather making films strictly as art. As such the "meanings" of his films are always left mysterious and open to interpret the metaphoric and symbolic expressions of his personal vision. After making several short films at a Soviet film School, Tarkovsky earned instant world-wide recognition with his debut feature 1962's Ivan's Childhood, which won at the Venice Film Festival. It was arrival of a true visionary. His next feature (Andrei Rublev- which uses the life of a famous 15th century painter as a metaphor or backdrop, to the films examination of obsession and art in connection with the suffering of the world). The film was only shown in private screenings in 1966 before finally debuting at the Cannes Film Festival in 1969 (where it took home an award). A perfectionist Tarkovsky only made three films in the 1970s, a decade that marked his eventual exile from Russia (a country in which he claimed artistic freedom was impossible). Among the films made during his last years in Russia, were perhaps his two greatest masterpieces: 1975's The Mirror, which stands as his most personal and poetic film, and his final film made in Russia 1979's Stalker which was banned for two years. After his exile, Tarkovsky made just two more films: 1983's haunting Nostalgia, an his last (and one of his most powerful) 1986's The Sacrifice which was made the year of his death (and stands as a personal message to his son). Tarkovsky's films are not for everyone and they are difficult to truly describe with words. I have seen and loved all of his seven features, yet still have not truly discovered the beauty and artistic depth of his vision. Honestly I don't know if it's possible from anyone outside of Tarkovsky himself. Maybe the best description of his genius is what legendary master filmmaker Ingmar Bergman proclaimed when he said "Tarkovsky is for me the greatest. The one who invented a new language, true to the nature of film, as it captures life as a reflection, life as a dream".

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