On Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker
Excerpt from Positif, October 1981.
Source: The Unflinching Gaze, The Guardian, Saturday November 30, 2002
[ full article ].
In the film-maker's last three films, the empty beaches are, in only a few moments,
suddenly flooded and covered with water. In all of cinema, I have never seen shots more
dense and mysterious than these aquatic images. The same calm waters that lap over pebbles
slowly float away algae. Bubbles occasionally break at the surface. They irrigate that
which is no longer the planet of the ghosts but the very soil of terra firma in Solaris, in The Mirror,
and in this unbelievable scene in Stalker, where they fill the screen, inviting nothing
but contemplation, while on the accompanying soundtrack the writer and the professor work
hard to illustrate in words an opposition that we, the audience, can plainly see.
Their comments are stupefying, and the Stalker, lying in the silt, allows himself
to be fascinated by the flow, and appears to be at one with it.
Out of this surprising counterpoint, with the image winning out so clearly
over speech, are we to infer that Tarkovsky basically does not attach too
much importance to the intellectual structure of his film or its human content?
In any event, he allows them to fade, without any remorse, and to be left to their
vacuity by the evidence and physical apprehension of the mystery. They are no
more than a buzzing sound, like insects on the surface of the water.
What is clear is that we are these insects, and the problems and conflicts that they
are debating are ours. All artists speak to us of these insects. Tarkovsky, too, but he
alone films the water.