Blu-Ray Review: Stalker (Criterion Collection)

In today’s effect driven film market, most science fiction cinema is reliant on green screens and CGI. However, as films such as Primer and Coherence demonstrate, more cerebral fare can be done well without relying on visual effects. Many consider Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey as the greatest sci-fi film ever made. However, a minority, including myself, believe that Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker deserves that accolade.

Since ‘The Zone’ suddenly appeared, the authorities have been unsure what to do about it. Experts are divided about its providence. With many dangers inside, the military have decided to fence it off. Access is strictly prohibited. Those who enter alone, never return. In order to navigate the traps and hazards, you need to hire a ‘Stalker’ to guide you through the maze. The ‘Writer’ (Anatoly Solonitsyn) and the ‘Professor’ (Nikolai Grinko) employ the services of a ‘Stalker’ (Alexander Kaidanovsky) with the aim of reaching the mythical ‘Room’. A place which will grant your greatest desire.

Plagued with production issues (a year of outdoor footage was lost when the film was improperly developed), Stalker faced its own hazardous journey to theatrical release. We’ll never know to what extent this changed the story, but Tarkovsky ended up making his greatest film. Loosely based on Boris and Arkady Strugatsky’s novel Roadside Picnic (they also wrote the screenplay), it’s a tale laced with barbed political sentiment, metaphysical poetry and spiritual contemplation. Stalker is a masterpiece. Rivetingly slow and wonderfully abstruse.

Disc Features:

  • New 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New interview with Geoff Dyer, author of Zona: A Book About a Film About a Journey to a Room
  • Interviews from 2002 with cinematographer Alexander Knyazhinsky, set designer Rashit Safiullin, and composer Eduard Artemyev
  • PLUS: An essay by critic Mark Le Fanu

Stalker is released on Blu-ray by Criterion UK on Monday 24 July.

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