Emmanuel Carrère

On Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker

Excerpt from Positif, October 1981. Source: The Unflinching Gaze, The Guardian, Saturday November 30, 2002 [ full article ].

In the film-maker's last three films, the empty beaches are, in only a few moments, suddenly flooded and covered with water. In all of cinema, I have never seen shots more dense and mysterious than these aquatic images. The same calm waters that lap over pebbles slowly float away algae. Bubbles occasionally break at the surface. They irrigate that which is no longer the planet of the ghosts but the very soil of terra firma in Solaris, in The Mirror, and in this unbelievable scene in Stalker, where they fill the screen, inviting nothing but contemplation, while on the accompanying soundtrack the writer and the professor work hard to illustrate in words an opposition that we, the audience, can plainly see. Their comments are stupefying, and the Stalker, lying in the silt, allows himself to be fascinated by the flow, and appears to be at one with it.

Out of this surprising counterpoint, with the image winning out so clearly over speech, are we to infer that Tarkovsky basically does not attach too much importance to the intellectual structure of his film or its human content? In any event, he allows them to fade, without any remorse, and to be left to their vacuity by the evidence and physical apprehension of the mystery. They are no more than a buzzing sound, like insects on the surface of the water.

What is clear is that we are these insects, and the problems and conflicts that they are debating are ours. All artists speak to us of these insects. Tarkovsky, too, but he alone films the water. end block

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