Maria Chugunova talks to Maya Turovskaya

On Stalker

The below is from Maya Turovskaya's book 7½, ili filmy Andreia Tarkovskovo, "Iskusstvo", Moscow 1991, ISBN 5-210-00279-9.

With The Mirror he completed certain period of his life, I think. He even gave up all his talismans, his "signature" shots.

In Stalker he decided to break with all of them. He didn't photograph Ogorodnikova — she was his talisman — he didn't photograph the apple and he didn't photograph the horse. He gave up all those three habits of his. He said: there will be no apple — put an orange, a rotting one, near the bed; and he replaced the horse with a dog.


He never explained things of that kind. Whenever I asked "Why?" he'd answer "Because".

And where was Stalker shot?

In Tallinn and around Tallinn, at two locations. There were two power stations there, an ordinary one and the other hydroelectric, abandoned, with a blown-up dam — that's the first spot, and the second — that's really amazing, no one would believe — in a pasta factory. In Tallinn where hotel "Viru" was, a post office stands now in the corner, very stylish, with that little factory behind. Back then there was no post office there, just two-three tiny houses, slums. So next to the "Viru" the entire opening was shot, mainly inside that factory. The interiors — Stalker's room and the bar — naturally in the studio. There are such wonderful textures there. And since Andrei Arsenevich was himself the set designer for the film...

And the first version of Stalker which was rejected — was it very different? After all Rerberg was the cameraman there and here Knyazhinsky.

In general no, not too much. Georgi Rerberg left for many reasons, not because of the photography. Obviously in the second version not everything was photographed the same way — two cameramen cannot put the camera on the same spots all the time. Grinko's telephone conversation for the first version was shot in a location interior, for the second — in the studio. And although the studio decoration was made to look exactly like the interior, some things always change: the lighting, the set decoration. In the last version the episode was shot in one take. They rehearsed for two days then loaded the film and filmed the whole thing in one take. Yet some of Rerberg's shots — two, I think — survive in the finished film: that chemical foam which we had filmed before wasn't there anymore, it was impossible to redo this.

And about the set design?

Hah! Unbelievably demanding. On Stalker I plucked out all the tiny yellow flowers which were in the camera view. Entire huge meadow — it was full of yellow flowers — and I tore it all out. The rest of the crew helped. Not a tiniest flower remained. Even though it was a very wide shot. Next year when we were shooting the second version, there were no more yellow flowers, we had done a really god job on those; but the blue ones grew instead. We plucked out these as well. This entire space where they throw their nuts had to be green — and everything was plucked out.

When I saw in On Thursday and Never Again a meadow with dandelions — God, how terrible! In our film not one flower remained. I think even Kurosawa wouldn't dream of such a thing!

If there were ten twigs on a tree, Andrei Arsenevich would check each and every one of them to see how it looked in the scene: perhaps it should be cut off or lengthened, add some silver here or brown there, or cover the trunk with soot to make it blacker and more interesting — everything was always brought to the condition he needed. [...] And how much he loved his tracking shots over little objects: put a little fish here, a twig over there, a syringe box — all this he would always set up himself, he wouldn't trust anybody. [...] Only later, in his Western interviews he began to explain all this, putting it in words, but to us he would only say: "just do it".

He needed image that was sort of on the one hand in colour and on the other — without colour. Or he would like an image with only one colour detail: for example, everything in black and white but the face looking natural and he'd like to do it not by combining shots but to photograph it that way. Of course, our technology had not reached that level yet. But there is one such close-up of Grinko asleep in Stalker. More or less like the entire Sacrifice: earthy; Nykvist has captured it brilliantly.  end block

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