Screenplay By: Arkadi & Boris Strugatsky & Andrei Tarkovsky
Directed By: Andrei Tarkovsky
There isn’t a hard rule when it comes to films giving you time to think about the issues they present. Some movies hit you fast and move on, while other movies stop and linger for long periods of time. Movies that take either tract have worked and have failed. But, I happen to be a fan of the middle ground between those two styles. The films that give you something to think about and allow you to think but don’t dwell and linger so long that it reaches the point where I no longer feel the need to pay attention. Andrei Tarkovsky is not a fan of that middle ground, he is a fan of long movies with long periods of reflection. I am not a big fan of Tarkovsky, I respect his skill, and he makes good movies, but I have yet to see a movie from Tarkovsky that I would label as great.
I have spent a good deal of my life entrenched in philosophy and ideas, applying them to life around me, to history, to movies, to books, to everything. But, philosophy can’t exist by itself, it needs something to be applied to. I mean, it can exist by itself, but that type of philosophy has never appealed to me. Stalker applies philosophy to some base human emotions and actions, but I never felt there was enough of a tangible connection between the philosophy of the film and the real world. One of my philosophy professors once told me that the worst thing any philosophy student can do is become so enveloped in the tenets of philosophy that they lose sight of what drives philosophy, humanity. I won’t say that Tarkovsky goes that far, but he comes awfully close.
It’s odd, I love the work of Gus Van Sant, and he is along the lines of Tarkovsky in using long extended silence to explore philosophy and mankind. But, I find Van Sant’s movies to be more human than Tarkovsky’s. In his world, as well as in that of another philosophical director, Stanley Kubrick, the idea of humanity is never for a second left behind in favor of dissociative philosophy. Despite the wonderful look of the film and the ideas it does put forth, Stalker felt to me like a philosophy project, and one that goes so far in its efforts to explore the idea of philosophy that it often dissociates itself from what makes philosophy tick.
I’m sure many will vehemently disagree with what I have written. I know of a few people who I talk to who will be among those in disagreement. Stalker is visually appealing and it does give the viewer a lot to think about, but too often it forgoes what should be at the root of thought. Stalker feels decidedly foreign and without humanity and that type of philosophy has never appealed to me. So, while a well made film, Stalker didn’t appeal to me all that much and for that reason I can’t fully get behind recommending it to anyone.