It’s hard to find a way to describe the story of Andrei Tarkovsky stalkernot to mention define the the true meaning behind such a mysterious film.
Is it critical of something specific? Is it an allegory that everyone interprets in their own way (and in their time)? Or is it perhaps something that Tarkovsky actually tried to convey with his work that we are still trying to understand? In any case, the real question is: does it really matter what we offer from a collective point of view? Tarkovsky’s films are not easy to digest today, but they speak about your existence much more than you imagine. His films may seem dated today, but that doesn’t mean they lack an undeniable importance in an artist’s ability to speak loudly with a beautiful work of art.
So trying to explain why it was ranked number one in rotten tomatoes‘ list of greatest science fiction films, you almost have to experience the film itself. For what? What the movie can do to you is totally different from what it has done to millions of viewers, critics or otherwise, over the years. It’s not that the Russian filmmaker made personal films that are now yours. It’s that his philosophical dictionary is universally beautiful and effective when you open yourself up to the possibility of diving deep into a movie and being part of a spiritual experience crafted by a man talented enough to do so easily in his entire work.
Tarkovsky’s Unique and Essential Approach to Science Fiction
If you open your browser and Google “greatest sci-fi movies of all time“, there is a good chance that Tarkovsky will appear on all pages listed in the results. Either Solaris Or stalker will be there, we can assure you.
Just keep in mind that the director’s mannerisms are drastically different from what you’d see on these lists. Science fiction is one of the broadest genres in film and television. It literally gives you endless scope when designing other worlds, characters, and scenarios. There are no limits to what filmmakers can do. As positive as it sounds, this freedom can also hurt your vision when you go beyond what your plot limits require.
This is exactly what Tarkovsky does very well. In particular in stalker, it’s not going for a movie that follows the rules and norms of the genre. Neither its scripts nor its visuals are typical of what can be found in science fiction. In Tarkovsky’s universe, philosophy and its offshoots are the basis for a radical study of the human mind and soul, and how characters behave in worlds that are not real but which can be realistic and reflect all of us.
In stalker, two men follow one another. They were promised a visit to The Zone by a browser (or “stalker”). The Zone is a site that exists only because of the legends and stories told by the community of a nation that is on on the verge of self-destruction. A professor and a writer have different agendas that are only revealed in a mind-bending third act that depicts the three men in an impossible place, a room where the stalker has taken them to where your desires can come true. The realization of the stalker is proof that this may be his first time in a place where the soul is subjected to an elevated experience. Or maybe it’s his first time in this version of his existence. We may never know.
There is nothing traditionally “science fiction” in stalker. There’s talk of alien races and remnants, but Tarkovsky doesn’t do this to indulge audiences in the commercial nature of a genre that tends to be a window into the afterlife. He decides to stay on Earth and explore more grounded themes such as existentialism, the boundaries of faith and religion, and yes, a social circumstance that is slightly reminiscent of a very different country.
Why Stalker Reviews Don’t Matter
In every review, article, video or book you will find something different about stalker. People will say you’re stupid because you didn’t understand the first time, and others will say you’re an idiot because stalker is literal. Pay no attention to those. Every experience is meant to be different, and of course, you have every right not to like Tarkovsky’s film. You might like its wonderful, dark aesthetic, but if you haven’t figured it out, that’s fine.
Maybe a new watch can lead to a different experience. The stalker is one of those movies you should watch a few times before trying to decide what you like and what you just don’t like. You are entitled to this wonderful achievement. A moment of realization in which you are able to turn an uncomfortable or enjoyable experience into an opinion about a movie that means different things to anyone watching it. Don’t deny the fact that stalker is an interesting film to watch, an unforgiving exploration of what lies deep within you.
Chances are you’re not a film critic. It seems to be a dying practice. This 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes was given by critics who had the chance to reflect on their opinion. But that’s just it. An opinion based on personal opinions that are no more important than your own.
If there’s one gift from Tarkovsky that remains treasured today, it’s stalker, a film that showed that everyone is on the same level of knowledge of its enigmatic existence. No one knows more than the other about what the movie is supposed to mean. Critics are on your side as you gaze in awe and disbelief at the possibility the greatest sci-fi movie ever made.
stalker is available to stream on HBO Max.