Andrei Tarkovsky on Stalker

The first screenplay of Stalker was closer to the novel and the film had a curious history. Half of it was already shot in fact when the exposed film was destroyed in the "Mosfilm" lab. Nobody would have allowed me to shot the film again had it not been the fault of a "Mosfilm" technician. One cannot repeat the same thing for the second time, that would have been beyond my stamina. Thus together with the authors we returned to our work on the screenplay...

In this case some kind of law of equilibrium must have been at work, perhaps the "Mosfilm" disaster was not accidental. It was as if fate intervened in the sense the accident occurred precisely at the instant the film could have become insufficiently deep.

Writer and Professor, two intellectuals, are simply people who are so sure of their reasons, so much convinced of their fairness that they are able to convince Stalker in the end. They both represent this positive realistic principle which is so manifest in contemporary life. This principle will impel Stalker to re-examine his attitude toward life. It's a story of a crisis, of the fall of an idealist. Stalker is the last of the Mohicans, a relic of a passing age, an idealist. What is taking place is a loss of faith. Pragmatism wins or to be more precise: materialism wins as I believe pragmatism is too gloomy. I find no particular faults with Stalker's two companions. Writer and Professor are a couple of normal people, a creation of the times we live in. Why are they both intellectuals? That's simple, I know intellectual circles a little bit better.

Concerning Professor — assuming one of the characters intended to destroy the place I concluded a scientist would make such a decision sooner than anybody else. I don't believe just any old educated person could have such desire and a means to follow up on it. For a person like him it is easier to construct the bomb but the issue here is not the bomb... I think the scientist is afraid of this place more than the others because he can imagine what might take place in the future. He behaves towards the Zone the way he in fact should behave towards his knowledge. Science, technology and their development are even more dangerous than the Room itself. My intent was to make this character like a scientist-functionary, I imagined him in the mundane meaning of the word "scientist", not as a creator. Professor is not a creative type, someone full of new ideas — in reality our scientist appears to me as a person who lost: he didn't invent anything, didn't discover anything, all his life he had suffered from some inferiority complex.  end block

Interview Conservare le radici with Luisa Capo in "Scena" 1980 (1)  pp. 48–50 [Pol. trans. Marian Jurewicz].

Stalker in its form of expression approaches tragedy. It is true that in tragedy the hero has to die but I said "approaches" because this is not a tragedy caused by death but by the complete destruction of a "certain inner world". This is after all a different thing than tragedy. There exists, however, the concept of catharsis, cleansing through suffering, cleansing which is possible only in art... yes, perhaps also in life but always in the spiritual sphere. Thus if we are talking of Stalker as a tragedy of a certain individual, we are referring here to the destruction of the inner world of the title character. It would be hard to say if he reaches a new spiritual level, it would be more appropriate to say this about Writer or Professor. But this film does not concern itself with spiritual levels of its characters. It is concerned with the author's perception, the spiritual levels which influence the viewer. In this sense the more difficult the access to the work is, the more significant, the higher, artistic result. But it's difficult for me to say whether I achieved my intention, only viewers can judge that. But this was my hope after the film was finished.

The fundamental problem is no longer an issue pertaining to a character, the actors or ideology, and it impacts the viewer in a spiritual sense. This may result in a compulsion to examine again one's attitude to life or at least to ask oneself questions about one's spiritual ideal or about the attitude toward one's own spiritual life. It's difficult for me to judge whether my film can produce such result. I could never understand whether I was successful in what I did or not.

On Stalker I worked for the first time as a set designer. In general I'm glad I decided to go through this experience. First of all I had no conflicts with the director and what's even better, no conflicts with the set designer. In the past I sometimes had to lose time and energy explaining what I wanted. I'm happy with what I was able to accomplish by my own efforts although I do not plan to work as a set designer on my future films.
I've been working with Anatoly Solonitsyn and Nikolai Grinko for a while now — I know everything about them. I'm working for the first time with Sasha Kaidanovsky and I'm very happy I selected him to play Stalker although at first I had my doubts. I was seriously worried but thankfully all my fears later proved groundless. I'm happy with Sasha. I think participating in this film was important for him as well. The role of Stalker was a difficult and unusual one for him. Different than everything he had been doing in cinema until then. I think he was already slightly disappointed with his profession and he began having some doubts about usefulness of his work in film. I'll be certainly working with him again... Now about Tolya Solonitsyn — nothing would be a success without him, I adore him as an actor. We are so used to one another that we didn't even have to discuss the film. This is the highest level of mutual understanding, I think.
Of all scenes in Stalker I like Alisa Freindlikh's monologue the most. Although the one closest to my heart is... let's say the one I feel as my own and in which I have perhaps expressed myself to the fullest. It is probably one of the final scenes, beginning with their return to the bar and home, up until the conversation with the wife. When everything is in the past already.  end block

Interview Intervista a Tarkovskij with Luisa Capo in "Scena", 1980 (3) supplement "Achab" No. 4, pp. 119–127 [Pol. trans. Marian Jurewicz].

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