Friday, May 18, 2007

Tarkovsky's Stalker

Watching a gorgeous 35mm print of Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker last Sunday, I involuntary pronounced the words "Oh my God" twice in the film. The first time it was in response to an image of a wall. The second time, a doorway. Beauty in Stalker is a revelation, found in decay and disintegration, a heavy relief that seems to push the images forward from the screen. The film is no less mysterious than any of Tarkovsky's films (with the probable exception of Ivan's Childhood), but is emotionally accessible, its characters coherent and empathetic. And its visual beauty is astonishing, striking enough that the images themselves seem heavy, weighing down the characters wading through the settings that overwhelm them. Tarkovsky's mysticism is fascinating to me, even though his deadly seriousness means his films are constantly on the verge of self-parody. It's especially interesting that, in Stalker, the supposedly supernatural settings never really manifest themselves as such (besides a single unexplained voice) - it's like a children's game, with the participants pretending that they're in a dangerous otherworldly place. It isn't until the very end of the film, when the Stalker's daughter moves a glass across the dining room table through telekinesis, that any evidence of the mystical is shown on screen. These moments of telekinesis or levitation that dot Tarkovsky's films always astonish me. And they're always so beautifully filmed, so meticulously composed, that it can't help but feel like the natural order of things.