With STALKER, Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky returns to the mind-bending, philosophy-tinged science fiction of SOLARIS. The setting is an unnamed country in an unforeseen postapocalyptic future. A meteorite has landed, and its impact has created a mysterious phenomenon known as the Zone, within which resides a sinister room said to grant humanity’s deepest desires. Only Stalkers are able to enter the Zone, bringing intrepid citizens to test their strength and desires against the Zone’s enigmatic treacheries. The film follows one such Stalker (Alexander Kaidanovsky) as he attempts to bring two characters known as Writer (Anatoli Solonitsyn) and Scientist (Nikolai Grinko) into the Zone. The hapless trio makes a difficult and mud-drenched journey, dodging military guards and invisible traps and enduring extreme psychological strain. While Tarkovsky avoids any direct political reading of STALKER, the film’s allegorical structure presents a powerful and disturbing metaphor for humanity’s loss of and subsequent quest for faith. The Stalker’s struggle to rescue himself and his family while guiding those more wretched than himself creates a physical and metaphysical drama that leaves the viewer breathless. Blending visual, narrative, and cinematic conventions to portray the fractured logic of the Zone, Tarkovsky conjures a universe of despair and desire in which science, rationalism, and technology must face off against love, humanism, and faith.
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