The Cinema Of Andrei Tarkovsky

There was a time when visual suzerains held cinema-going audiences spellbound with their every frame a painting modus operandi, hiding beneath these visual orgasms philosophical undertones to be sought after and admired, and in case of savants, comprehended. When I first chanced upon this blogathon, the name that popped up in my mind instantly was that of Quentin Tarantino, a true master of fiery dialogue and the power it unleashes on the minds of the audience. However, if I forsake for this moment my preference for the verbal aspect of cinema than the visual, I cannot seem to think of any other name than that of Russian film-making’s prized gem christened Andrei Tarkovsky.

I belong to the 21st century. Consummated by fast-paced movies, this is a generation which seems to forgive and even adore directors who forsake art if they seem to provide ample entertainment. So obviously, when I was introduced to the cinema of the likes of Ingmar Bergman and Terrence Malick and Bela Tarr, the reaction was reminiscent of a drug addict’s to rehab. However, when the sepia-coloured screen faded in, I was completely mesmerized.

I am talking about my viewing experience of the 1979 classic of Tarkovsky’s titled Stalker. There are very movies which penetrate deep into one’s soul and create an atmosphere which forces one to introspect on the very foundation of one’s existence. Stalker was one of the very few gems that conjured that atmosphere for me. As the movie progressed deep within the Zone, towards the room where one’s innermost desires were satisfied, I experienced my own subconscious tracing its path towards my soul and exposing a facet of it. A facet so veracious in nature that I was taken aback by the years I spent pretending to be oblivious of its existence. When Stalker neared its end, I was left sobbing inconsolably. Maybe when we look so deep into ourselves, sadness seems to be the only emotion invoked. Even if I say Stalker changed me irrevocably, I believe it still would be a gross understatement to the emotional impact this masterpiece by Andrei Tarkovsky unleashes.

But I believe that you, dear reader, still have a pertinent question hanging on the back of your minds. Why Tarkovsky? Why chose him over Welles or Ford or Hitchcock or Kubrick? Your question holds a firm validity since none of his other movies have even come close to Stalker’s greatness. The Mirror seems to be an artistic mess (a description I believe Tarkovsky intended it to be characterized by). His Solaris is an imperfect masterpiece in my opinion, oscillating between Tarkovsky’s and Stainslaw’s (the writer of the novel on which the movie is based) vision, in the end delivering a work-in-progress feel when the screen fades.

Well, the answer to the aforementioned question is crystal clear when I think about it. All directors have a distinctively personal work, say Malick’s Tree Of Life or Fellini’s 8 ½. With Tarkovsky, it was always personal. He intended every movie of his to be a pathway for the viewer into his own being, various cinematic models reminiscent of the pathways John Cusack’s character finds in Being John Malkovich.

All of Tarkovsky’s works were meditative in their nature, with soothing visual imagery at every turn.  It was not an attempt to lure the intellectuals or instill in his movies metaphorical subplots. On the contrary, it was his daring attempt to make art accessible to every layman. An opportunity to analyze and meditate upon the events which had transpired before. Unlike all other intellectuals who have graced the cine industry, Tarkovsky actually wanted ‘everyone’ to understand.

Stalker Review

I was recently watching one of THR’s Roundtables in which the host, Stephen Gallaway posed a very interesting question. He asked ‘If you had the chance of preserving one movie before the apocalypse, which would it be?’ I am affirmative that I would reply Andrei Tarvosky’s Stalker. It is a fantasy movie made for the people who hate fantasy movies.

One of the very few job requirements a film critic is supposed to have by default is an ebullient attitude towards movies with slow-pacing, and most of the times, it rules me out. Stalker begins on a sombre note with snail-aced long takes. But for some reason, the atmosphere of Stalker with its enigmatic music and color composition had me already spell-binded. Later, I read that I wasn’t the only one one had encountered with this quandary. Many suggested had suggested to Tarvosky that the movie should be more dynamic in nature, to which he replied ‘The film needs to be slower and duller at the start so that the viewers who walked into the wrong theatre have time to leave before the main action starts.’

But once he overcomes that starting hiccup, Tarvosky rewards his viewer with an unforgettable spectacle of visual poetry set into motion. The plot is centered around a Stalker who leads a professor and a writer through The Zone, a mysterious restricted piece of land which holds a room which is said to fulfill the innermost desires of any man who enters it. The structure of this so-called Zone deserves a movie of its own, for the roots of its existence are ground so deep in the waters of surrealism that it would put Salvador Dali to shame.

The movie more than often reminded me of Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now which couldn’t care less about the journey which its characters undertake. Instead, it works as an anatomy of the innermost desires of its characters, revealing to us their cherished beliefs and their exploration of the meaning of life. The movie is filled to the brim with intriguing philosophical conversations which seem to give equal importance to both ends of the spectrum, acting as a catharsis for these characters, all of whom seem to be leading extremely wretched lives.

The movie questions the very nature of the existence of such a Zone and its usefulness. It forces us to introspect and delve deep within ourselves and examine our very own innermost desires. In my personal experience, it resulted in a startling revelation of what I considered myself to be and what I am as a person.

Stalker is an enigmatic and surprisingly moving motion picture which will forever remain one of cinema’s most treasured gems. They don’t make them like this anymore.

RATING :- 9.5 / 10


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