Stalker (1979) – Dir. Andrei Tarkovsky
The film, set in the unknown future, is about a guide, known as a Stalker, who leads two men, a Writer, and a Professor, into an area called the Zone in order to reach, at the center of the Zone, the Room, a place where your deepest desires are granted.
Stalker is quite easily one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever seen, seemingly going beyond the boundaries of film form, creating a transcendental feeling, while also saying so much about humanity, existence, life, death, desire, truth, meaning, knowledge, love, art, time, space, being and so much more. What makes Stalker even more amazing is the importance of the film’s meaning -- what I perceive the film to mean -- of life, as well as the rest of Tarkovsky’s films.
Before I express why I believe Stalker is important for us, I’d just like to give a quick warning for those who haven’t seen the film. So SPOILER ALERT!
As the Stalker, the Writer and the Professor reach the precipice of the Room, the Writer and the Professor are told that to enter the Room they each have to intellectually manifest their deepest desire. But of course, the Writer and the Professor can’t do this. The realization is that no one can think up their deepest desire. The reason for why I believe this to be the case is because we can’t absolutely know of anything. If we agree that knowledge is justified belief, then how can we absolutely justify a belief if the belief and/or the justification of the belief can always be refuted?
We, based on the structure of our language, have created a conundrum, that allows us to produce thought and communicate with seemingly more convenience with each other but also creates beliefs that we perceive to be divisive and in turn, creates conflicts between us. What makes this idea so profound is that the idea can also be translated to other parts of life, such as truth, meaning, purpose, love and so on. It makes us realize that these parts of life are simple constructs, that we have created for ourselves, to produce thought and to communicate with seemingly more convenience with each other.
The beauty in Stalker is that it helps us to realize that our “being precedes our essence”, a phrase coined in Jean-Paul Satre’s book, Being and Nothingness. And the idea of our being preceding our essence suggests an interdependence, which serves as an important reminder that we need each other to do anything and that by creating conflict we’re only hurting ourselves. As Tarkovsky puts it in his 1972 film, Solaris, “Man needs man!”
Just an FYI, my current top 10 list of all time films:
- Stalker (1979)
- The Mirror (1975)
- 8½ (1963)
- Nostalghia (1983)
- Bergman’s God Trilogy (1961-1963)
- The Sacrifice (1986)
- Last Year at Marienbad (1961)
- Le Samourai (1967)
- Woman in the Dunes (1964)
- L’Avventura (1960)
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