Birthday of Stalker

On May 25, 1979, in Moscow, at the Mosfilm film studio, in a very narrow circle, as they say, "only for their own", Andrei Tarkovsky's film "Stalker" was shown. A little later, in July of the same year, this film was shown in three cinemas in the city of Tomsk. And only in 1980, the official Moscow premiere of this film took place. This film was the last shot by Tarkovsky in his homeland.

To date, a lot of articles have been written about this film production, many films have been made, and I am not going to retell them, because anyone, regardless of their attitude to Tarkovsky and his work, can easily find these materials on the web. I want to share my, if I may say so, "touches" with this film masterpiece of Andrei Tarkovsky.

Somewhere in the mid-70s, a file of issues of the magazine "Aurora", which was read to the holes, in which the story of the Strugatsky brothers' "Roadside Picnic" was collected, got into our student dormitory. Literally everyone "got sick" with the story. Everywhere the words "witch's jelly" or "mosquito bald spot" and so on were heard from different corners. And one of the ironic insults was "Moslaty Ishak".

And then there was the news that our favorite director, Tarkovsky, was making a film based on this book. That was the joy! And we began to wait for the appearance of this film, which, by all means, should become a masterpiece, since it will combine the indisputable talent of the writers with the genius, even if not universally recognized, of the director.

And suddenly, following this news, a rumor reached us, I don't know how many lips passed, that, supposedly, the film was shot almost halfway, when, through the fault of the operator Rerberg, the entire film turned out to be exposed. By that time, an earthquake had occurred in the area in Central Asia where the shooting was carried out, which completely changed the landscape. As a consequence, the entire film had to be re-shot from the very beginning. For this reason, Tarkovsky had a heart attack. And the release of the film on the screens is postponed indefinitely. We grieved, of course, but, never mind, we waited for the film to be released.

Of course, what we saw on the screen was a little embarrassing. The content of the film was too different from the plot of the Strugatskys' story. But, on the other hand, knowing and loving Tarkovsky, we did not expect the literary source to be literally transferred to the screen. Moreover, the title of the film was different from the title of the story. In fact, instead of an adventurous and fantastic story, we saw a philosophical parable with a minimum of fantastic details. And in this capacity, as an independent work, the film, of course, cut through to the bone.

The above can be called my first "touch" with Andrei Tarkovsky's film "Stalker". The second "touch" happened recently, 40 years after the first.

In the comments to my article dedicated to Andrei Tarkovsky, the following question arose: "why are you not telling that Andrei Arsenievich destroyed all of Rerberg's work in "Stalker" ... and the USSR Ministry of Culture and the USSR State Film Agency gave money again for the version with Knyazhinsky ... not fits into the message and concept of the article?"

I replied to the author of the question that I was familiar with such rumors, but did not see documentary evidence of these rumors. The author of the question was asked to provide evidence. To which the author of the question commented as follows:
"There is a documentary film about the tragic conflict between Rerberg and Tarkovsky at "Stalker", which is called "Rerberg and Tarkovsky. The other side of "Stalker" (MIFF premiere 2008, Golden Lion, Nika 2010) - if we talk about first-hand history ... A familiar trick is to sketch as many small details from the "officer's daughter" series as possible, stick nonsense and divert the conversation away from true message .. people grabbing .. after all, few people climb into primary sources, and knowledge of the history of cinematography, which allows without sources to poke in "inaccuracies", is not at all. It is common knowledge that "Stalker" was filmed in Tallinn (oops, what a nuisance). Indeed, there was a trouble with the film, but not for the reasons indicated by you, but through the indirect fault of the Mosfilm employee during the development process. Plus there was no intelligible script, there was a mess with decorating objects, endless takes, and besides, Tarkovsky actually pushed Rerberg away from the camera. But then he blamed him for all the troubles and parted with him forever. This happens with creative people, especially who are not used to looking in the mirror and seeing their flaws. The only truth is that on April 9, Tarkovsky really had a heart attack, but after the incident with the film and after the filming of one of the scenes. But the essence of the comment was different, and you perfectly understood that. The article is thoroughly anti-Soviet, and meanwhile, it was the Soviet cinematography leadership, using public money, that allowed Tarkovsky to re-shoot "Stalker" the way he wanted, despite the enormous costs of filming almost 2000 m of film ... "

Well, and then Stalinist delirium with attacks on other cultural figures who made the pride and glory of Russian and Soviet art, in particular, Sergei Prokofiev and Boris Pasternak. I will not quote this nonsense, since it has no direct relation to the film "Stalker". Those interested can read this commentary to the specified article themselves.

I had to answer the author of the above cited text that if we strive for objectivity, then it should be noted that the documentary to which the author of the above commentary referred was filmed by director Igor Mayboroda based on the memoirs of Georgy Rerberg. That is, it initially reflected the point of view of only ONE side of the conflict. And at one time the film critic Andrei Plakhov drew attention to this bias to only one side: "The theme of the picture is concrete - the conflict around" Stalker. Of course, bias is visible in his analysis. For example, in order to emphasize the greatness of Rerberg's pictorial solution, the scriptural basis of the Strugatsky brothers is rather dismissive. " It should be noted that this film was shot AFTER Tarkovsky's death. That is, when he could not give his explanations and objections. This fact clearly demonstrates moral cleanliness, or rather, its absence, both among the authors of the film and among those who refer to this film.

But the point is not only the moral untidiness of the author of the commentary to my article. The point is, let's say, the arithmetic inconsistency of the author of the attack on Tarkovsky. In this case, we are talking about the phrase "the Soviet film leadership, using public money, allowed Tarkovsky to reshoot" Stalker "the way he wanted, despite the enormous costs of filmed almost 2000 m of film ..." Indeed, as noted by the journalist of "Rossiyskaya Gazeta" Vladimir Bolotin, "Due to constant alterations of the script (there were about ten versions of the picture in total), due to the loss of expensive film, extended filming and an increase in timing (Tarkovsky received permission from the State Film Agency to create a two-part film), the production budget exceeded 1 million rubles". While the planned budget was 300 thousand rubles.

It is known that in the first year the film "Stalker" was watched by 4.3 million people. Those who lived in the Soviet Union probably remember that a movie ticket cost 30-50 kopecks, depending on the row in the cinema. (Naturally, we will not take into account 10-kopeck tickets for children's screenings.) Soviet cinema-goers, again, probably remember that for a ticket for two serial films it was necessary to pay double the price. Thus, a ticket to "Stalker" in an average Soviet cinema cost from 60 kopecks to 1 ruble. Let's take the average value - 80 kopecks - and we get that the film "Stalker" earned 3.44 million rubles in a year. That is, in modern terms, he "recaptured" the state funds invested in it and brought over 2 million rubles to the budget (including the very "Soviet film leadership"). In light of the above, the permission of Tarkovsky by the "Soviet film leadership" to reshoot the film "Stalker" with public money can be considered an investment or a budget loan, but certainly not "an attraction of unprecedented generosity." As the author of the commentary and the above-mentioned Andrey Plakhov do.

Go ahead. Is the audience of 4.3 million moviegoers a lot or a little? For a country like the Soviet Union, this is rather little than a lot. For example, the movie melodrama "Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears" by Vladimir Menshov, released in cinemas in the same year, 1980, gathered 84.4 million moviegoers in cinemas. But Menshov's film was assigned the highest category by the "Soviet cinematography leadership" and released in a print run of 1,910 copies. And "Stalker" was released in a circulation ... only 196 copies. 10 times less! So, the "Soviet film leadership" itself is to blame for the fact that the potentially high commercial potential of Andrei Tarkovsky's film was not fully utilized. And there is nothing to shed "crocodile" tears about the allegedly wasted "people money". The very fact that this film was released in such a limited edition once again confirms the stupidity of the "Soviet cinematography leadership". And meanness in relation to the state budget.

I foresee possible objections to the above calculations, that, they say, according to Kinopoisk, the budget of the film "Stalker" was not one, but six million rubles. And I will immediately answer these possible objections. Firstly, Kinopoisk in this case simply shamelessly, like a careless schoolboy, cheats from IMDB. But! IMDB, citing data on the 6 millionth budget of "Stalker", supplied this with the postscript "estimated". And errors in these calculations may well be explained by difficulties in transferring rubles back and forth at the official rate, dollars, rubles at the actual rate, etc. But Kinopoisk does not do credit for such uncritical "borrowing" of information. All right, if it would be an American film. But with regard to domestic film production, one could be more accurate. Moreover, and this is secondly, the publication of the press organ of the Government of the Russian Federation - "Rossiyskaya Gazeta" - provides completely different data. And finally, third. It is somehow difficult to believe in the reliability of the source, which claims that the premiere of Tarkovsky's film "Stalker" took place in Canada (!), On DVD (!!), on January 1, 1979 (!!!). And this while any schoolboy probably knows that the first DVDs appeared in 1996. In short, the fact-checking of Kinopoisk does not stand up to scrutiny.

This is my second "touch" with the film.

And now let's return to the description of the achievements of Andrey Tarkovsky's film "Stalker", traditional for our channel. It is quite obvious that a film that was so difficult to produce, reached the mass cinema audience for a whole year and reached it in a very small circulation, could not be nominated for international film festivals. And on the domestic film forums as well.

But the almost complete absence of "Stalker" at film festivals did not prevent this film from receiving 100% positive reviews from film critics both abroad and in Russia. The authoritative American film critic James Berardinelli gave the film three stars out of four possible and noted in his review: "It is masterfully done, contains some haunting images, and has a difficult-to-pinpoint mesmerism in the way it progresses. Once it gets you (which, for some, may never happen), it will hold you like a fly trapped in amber."

British film critic David Jenkins wrote: "Stalker is a movie to be watched as many times as physically possible, to be picked apart, discussed, argued over, written about, to inspire music, books, poetry, other movies, teachers, philosophers, historians, governments, even the way an individual might chose to live their life. It really is that astounding."

Tarkovsky's film was highly appreciated by modern cinema audiences. 72% of IMDB and Kinopoisk users rated this film from 8 to 10, and 30% of users rated the film with the highest score - "ten". And these numbers once again show how stupid it was to release a film in limited edition and not nominate it at international festivals.

Taking into account the above, the rating of Andrei Tarkovsky's film "Stalker" according to FilmGourmand's version is 8.126, making it the 557th place in the Golden Thousand.