May 25, 2021

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.

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.