17 Sep 2013: Stalker (DVD, 1979, Andrei Tarkovsky)
Though words like “ponderous” and “glacial” are seldom used to describe positive aspects of artwork, one has to note that glaciers are often mesmerizing and gorgeous and that a certain type of ruminative heaviness can be germane to the elevatingly profound. In this film, like his others, Tarkovsky gives nearly every shot – often slow dollies across the sets – the quality of slowly unfolding, as if sheets of silk were falling to the floor from a great height in half-g gravity, with a devotion to time and space bordering on the mystical, something the superbly eerie krautrockish electronic score intensifies in the aural domain. Most lengthy takes in cinema both past and modern are yet filled with dialogue (Before Midnight, Winter Light, The Player) or constant movement (Touch of Evil, 4, Elephant), and it’s extremely rare to see a movie so willing to trust in stillness and meditation to tell a story, or rather or to not need to tell a story, to let the story emerge from the contemplating viewer. Also is it rare to allow for discussion of philosophical ideas, for intelligence and thought to penetrate a narrative that visually and conceptually alone has more going for it than much of mass-market science fiction already. The unsettling look to the black-and-white/sepia-toned cinematography stands almost completely alone – evoking only lesser-known animated works like Metropia – in presenting a world as sapped of its reality and wholesomeness as of its light and color. The Zone is where life resides, and yet where no man dares to risk his earthly position, the sort of Kafka’s-Trial threshold beyond which all refuse to pass even as the way forward is unobstructed, and metaphors are seldom as existentially realized as they are here.