Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray Review: STALKER (1979): A Metaphysical Journey Through Fear

 Aleksandr Kaydanovskiy Anatoliy Solonitsyn Stalker

Stalker Blu-ray Review

Stalker (1979) Blu-Ray Review, a movie directed by Andrei Tarkovsky, starring Aleksandr Kaydanovskiy, Nikolay Grinko , and Anatolly Solonitsyn

Release Date: May, 1979

Plot

“A guide leads two men through an area known as the Zone to find a room that grants wishes.”

Disc Specifications

Run Time: 161 Minutes

Format: Blu-Ray

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1

Language: Russian (LCPM 1.0 Audio)

Subtitles: English (SDH)

Rating: Not Rated

Video

Stalker is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion with an MPEG-4 AVC encoded 1080p transfer.  Sourced from a brand new 2K master, this film has never looked better.  Detail is extraordinary, with close-ups playing such a pivotal role in the narrative and vital to the storytelling.  With the film largely taking place outdoors, the natural landscapes look both serene and haunting.  Brightness has also vastly improved over previous DVD and VHS releases.  Criterion truly outdid themselves with this transfer.

Audio

Stalker is presented with only one audio track, Russian LCPM 1.0.  This is a film that relies heavily on the sound design, and the track doesn’t disappoint.  The sounds of the landscape are quite impressive.  Dialogue is very audible.  The soundtrack is mainly used to accentuate character movements and situations, and while minimal, it is effective.

Blu-Ray Bonus Content

Geoff Dryer Interview – A new interview recorded in 2017 for the Criterion release, Geoff Dryer is the author of Zona: A Book About a Film About a Journey to a Room and he discusses the impact the film had on him from a young age.  He delves deeply into his interpretations of the story’s narrative, exploring everything from the characters journeys, the “Zone” that they inhabit, the prescient themes explored by Tarkovsky, and much more.

Eduard Artemyev Interview – An older interview with Stalkers composer, Artemyev discusses his working relationship with the director, and how he went about designing the soundtrack and sounds in tandem.

Rashit Safiullin Interview – Recorded in 2000, this discussion with the set designer is very informative on the making of StalkerSafiullin goes into detail on the tumultuous pre-production on the film, and the numerous takes that Tarkovsky would shoot.

Interview with Aleksandr Knyazhinsky – An interview from the 1990’s, the cinematographer of Stalker discusses shooting in Estonia.

Leaflet – Included with the Blu-ray is an essay by film critic Mark Le Fanu.

Film Review

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill once described the Soviet Union as “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”.  The same could be said for Andrei Tarkovsky’s final Soviet feature film Stalker. This film, like all great music, is an experience with a progression of moods and feelings.  Difficult to describe on the surface to someone, the best thing one can do is put the movie on, with little or no advanced information, and just give yourself over to Tarkovsky.

The story opens in a dystopian future, introducing us to a man called ‘the Stalker’.  He’s a hired guide who leads customers into an area called ‘the Zone’, where it is said that within there is a room that will grant “innermost desires”.  The Zone is heavily guarded by military trying to keep the population out (or perhaps to keep the terrors within).  The Stalker has agreed to take two men with him on a journey through the Zone, both with no names other than ‘Writer’ and ‘Professor’.  The opening of the film, prior to going into the Zone, is shown in a high-contrast brown monochrome, and the transition into the Zone going into color is one of the most mesmerizing edits in film history.  Think The Wizard of Oz for comparison.

This film takes its time in telling the story, and like most Tarkovsky films, moves at a snails pace with extremely long takes and subtle camera movements.  One of the purveying moods of this film is fear.  This journey through the Zone is not a simple “A to B” type of trek.  Like a dream, the characters can walk what seems to be several miles in one direction, only to end up right back where they started.  The two characters accompanying Stalker (Writer and Professor) engage in several lengthy discussions on a wide range of topics, including religion, philosophy, society and morality.  We get to know the two men through these conversations, and why they are risking so much in entering the Zone.

One of the things that always struck me was how prescient this film was for 1979.  Made seven years before the disaster at Chernobyl, the movie predicted what would occur in an event where a government wanted people kept out of an area, and the resulting depopulation of the contaminated areas surrounding the facility.  A religious allegory, a commentary on the political landscape and usage of the Gulags, a reevaluation on morality, Tarkovsky gave us a film that has many meanings and treasures buried within, but will only present themselves to the most patient of viewers.

Rating Stalker: 9/10

Disc Acquisition

You can purchase Stalker here.

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About the author

Kyle Steininger

Born and raised in Chicago, Kyle has loved movies ever since his father took him to the theater to watch Home Alone. Since then, he has developed a passion for films and everything about them from watching endless DVD extras, interviews with cast/crew, and attending screenings of older films when available. Some of his favorite directors include Kubrick, Fellini, Scorsese, Tarantino, Leone, and Nolan.

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