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Old 12-11-07, 06:51 AM   #18
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Stalker (film)
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Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky
Produced by Aleksandra Demidova
Written by Arkadi Strugatsky
Boris Strugatsky
Starring Alexander Kaidanovsky
Anatoli Solonitsyn
Nikolai Grinko
Music by Eduard Artemyev
Distributed by Mosfilm
Release date(s) August 1979 (Soviet Union)
Running time 163 min
Language Russian
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Stalker (Russian: Сталкер) is a 1979 film directed by Andrei Tarkovsky. It describes the journey of three men travelling through a post-apocalyptic wilderness called the Zone to find a room with the potential to fulfill one's innermost desires. The title role is played by Alexander Kaidanovsky, who guides two others through the area, the Writer, played by Anatoly Solonitsyn, and the Professor, played by Nikolai Grinko. Alisa Freindlich played the Stalker's wife.

The film is loosely based on the novel Roadside Picnic by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky. An early draft of the screenplay was also published as a novel Stalker that differs much from the finished movie. In Roadside Picnic, the Zone is full of strange artifacts and phenomena that defy known science. A vestige of this idea carries over to the film, in the form of Stalker's habit of throwing metal nuts down a path before walking along it. The characters in Roadside Picnic do something similar when they suspect they are near gravitational anomalies that could crush them.

"Stalker", an English word employed in the original novel, should not be understood in the contemporary, sinister sense, but rather in the older sense of a tracker of game.

* 1 Plot synopsis
* 2 Style and themes
* 3 Production
* 4 Crew
o 4.1 Cast
* 5 Making of (Gallery)
* 6 Homage
* 7 See also
* 8 References
* 9 External links

[edit] Plot synopsis

The setting of the film is a small town on the outskirts of "The Zone", a wilderness area which has been cordoned off by the government. The film suggests that the Zone was the site of a meteor strike, or perhaps of a UFO landing. The film's main character, the Stalker, works as a guide to bring people in and out of the Zone, specifically to a room which is said to grant wishes.

The film begins with the Stalker in his home with his wife and daughter. His wife emotionally urges him not to leave her again, but he ignores her pleas. The Stalker goes to a bar, where he meets the Writer and the Professor, who will be his clients on his next trip into the Zone. Writer and Professor are not identified by name–the Stalker prefers to refer to them in this way. The three of them evade the military blockade that guards the Zone -- attracting gunfire from the guards as they go -- and then ride into the heart of the Zone on a small trolley car.

Once in the Zone, the Stalker tells the others that they must do exactly as he says to survive the dangers that are all around them. The Stalker tests various routes by throwing metal nuts tied with strips of cloth ahead of him before walking into a new area. The Zone usually appears peaceful and harmless, with no visible dangers anywhere–Writer is skeptical that there is any real danger, while Professor generally follows the Stalker's advice.

Much of the film focuses on the trip through the dangerous Zone, and the philosophical discussions which the characters share about their reasons for wanting to visit the room. Writer appears concerned that he is losing his inspiration, Professor apparently hopes to win a Nobel prize, the Stalker -- who explains that he never visits the room himself -- quotes from the New Testament and bemoans the loss of faith in society. They first walk through meadows, and then into a tunnel which the Stalker calls "the meat grinder". Although the Stalker describes extreme danger at all times, no harm comes to any of the three men. Their journey ends when they arrive at the entrance of the room. Throughout the movie, the Stalker refers to a previous Stalker, named "Porcupine," who led his poet brother to death in the Zone, won the lottery, and then hung himself. When the Writer confronts the Stalker about his knowledge of the Zone and the Room, he says that it all comes from Porcupine.

At this point the Professor reveals, partly in a phone call to one of his colleagues, some of his true motives for having come to the room. He has brought a bomb with him, and intends to destroy the room out of fear that it could be used for personal gain by evil men. It is also possible that the Professor is going to remove the bomb which has been planted earlier- on the phone, he tells his colleague "You have hidden it, I have found it." and then describes the location. This "it" could refer to the bomb or the room. The three men fight verbally and physically, and eventually the Professor decides not to use his bomb. A classic Tarkovskian long take, with the camera in the room, leaves the men sitting outside the room, and does not clarify whether they ever enter. The take is long enough to show a rainstorm that spontaneously occurs, from beginning to end.

The next scene shows the Stalker, Writer, and Professor back in the bar. The Writer and Professor leave, and the Stalker's wife and child arrive. As the Stalker leaves the bar with his family, we see that his child, nick-named "Monkey" (who earlier dialogue has suggested is affected by some form of genetic mutation as a "child of the zone") is crippled, and cannot walk unaided. The film ends with a long shot of Monkey alone in the kitchen. She recites a poem, and then lays her head on the table and pushes three drinking glasses telekinetically across the table, with one falling to the floor.

[edit] Style and themes

Like Tarkovsky's other films, Stalker relies on long takes with slow, subtle movement of camera, rejecting the conventional use of rapid montage to explain the narrative and achieve artificial dramatic peaks. Instead, Tarkovsky's prolonged shots capture a poetic reality that is naturalistic and yet far removed from ordinary perception. As he did with Solaris, Tarkovsky took great liberties in adapting the screenplay to emphasize the philosophical and metaphysical angles that concerned him the most. Thus, while the film retains some of the science fiction trappings of the novel, it is most concerned with themes of personal faith that are important to Tarkovsky.

[edit] Production
VHS cover
VHS cover

The central part of the film was shot in a few days at a deserted hydro power plant on the Jägala river near Tallinn, Estonia. (The shot before they enter the zone is an old Flora chemical factory in the center of Tallinn (next to the old Rotermann salt store), some shots from the zone are filmed in Maardu, next to the Iru powerplant and the shot with the gates to the Zone is filmed in Lasnamäe, next to Punane street behind the Idakeskus.) When the team got back to Moscow, they found that all the film had been improperly developed. The film was shot on experimental Kodak stock, and Soviet laboratories were not familiar with it. There was also speculation that the Soviet authorities deliberately mishandled the stock of the film. Tarkovsky was officially frowned upon by the Soviet authorities, not because of his political stances (Tarkovsky rarely talked about politics), but because his films dealt with issues of spirituality and the quest for God. The USSR was an officially atheistic state, and Tarkovsky's films digressed from this official line, making him suspect. However, his films were relatively popular in the USSR, and he was allowed to continue making films.

During the shooting before the film stock problem was discovered, relations with the first cinematographer, Georgy Rerberg, were in serious deterioration. After screening the material, Rerberg left the first screening session and never came back. By the time this film stock defect was found out, Tarkovsky had shot all the outdoor scenes. Set designer Ra**** Safiullin was interviewed for the 2000 Rusico DVD, and he contends that Tarkovsky was so despondent that he wanted to abandon further production of the film.

After the loss of the film stock the Soviet film boards wanted to shut the film down, officially writing it off. But Tarkovsky came up with a solution - he asked to make a two part film, which meant additional deadlines and more funds. Tarkovsky ended up reshooting almost all of the film with a new cinematographer, Aleksandr Knyazhinsky. Tarkovsky made the film more of a philosophical metaphor than a straightforward science fiction film (similar to what he did in Solaris). He was constantly rewriting the script during the actual shooting and during the dubbing and editing (the film was post-dubbed, like many Soviet films were).

Many people involved in the film production had untimely deaths. Many attribute the long and arduous shooting schedule of the film, and the physical conditions of the terrain where it was made. Vladimir Sharun recalls:
“ We were shooting near Tallinn in the area around the small river Pirita with a half-functioning hydroelectric station. Up the river was a chemical plant and it poured out poisonous liquids downstream. There is even this shot in Stalker: snow falling in the summer and white foam floating down the river. In fact it was some horrible poison. Many women in our crew got allergic reactions on their faces. Tarkovsky died from cancer of the right bronchial tube. And Tolya Solonitsyn too. That it was all connected to the location shooting for Stalker became clear to me when Larissa Tarkovskaya died from the same illness in Paris. ”

It is suspected that the 1957 accident in the Mayak nuclear fuel reprocessing plant, which resulted in a several thousand square kilometer deserted "zone" outside the reactor [1], may have influenced this film. Seven years after the making of the film, the Chernobyl accident completed the circle. In fact, those employed to take care of the abandoned nuclear power plant refer to themselves as "stalkers", and to the area around the damaged reactor as the "Zone."
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