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  • Writer's pictureJames Rutherford

'Stalker': Andrei Tarkovsky's Thought-Provoking and Mesmerizing Science-Fiction Masterpiece

Movie poster for Stalker (1979)

Stalker (Сталкер) (1979) is a hauntingly beautiful and thought-provoking Russian science-fiction film starring Alexander Kaidanovsky as the titular protagonist, a guide who leads clients through a dystopian wasteland to an enigmatic site known as the "Zone". Their goal within the Zone is to locate and enter a mystical room, accessed by only a handful of inquisitors, which purportedly grants a person's innermost desires.

The storyline follows the Stalker as he escorts a melancholic writer (Anatoly Solonitsyn) and a disillusioned professor (Nikolai Grinko) through the Zone, painstakingly testing for gravitational anomalies while fully aware of the Zone's capacity for incongruity and danger. As they progress through blighted ruins and into the bowels of decaying industry, the trio deliberate over their individual motivations. The Writer describes at length his abject fear of losing his creative inspiration, while The Professor yearns for a Nobel Prize for scientific analysis of the Zone. The Stalker insists that he holds no motive beyond the altruistic intent of delivering salvation to desperate souls—even as the three men come face-to-face with the Zone's ultimate test: a mysterious, shimmering sphere that radiates powers beyond their collective imagination.

Loosely based on the 1972 novel "Roadside Picnic" by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky and directed by Andrei Tarkovsky (Andrei Rublev, Solaris), Stalker is a profound and immersive exploration of faith and desire. Tarkovsky's signature style unfolds through deliberate pacing, dreamlike visuals and sparse dialogue—with a focus on the internal transformations and philosophical discussions the characters experience along the way. A landmark of art-house cinema, revered for its unique atmosphere and intellectual framework, it's an entirely unique exploration of devotion, reason and humanity's deepest, most intrinsic desires.


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