It’s Wednesday, and you all know what that means. It’s time to check out the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes to get a feel for what is good and bad about the movie of the week. Of course, this week we’re tackling the Andrei Tartovsky 1979 sci-fi film Stalker. I’ve never heard of it. Odds are good you haven’t, either! It will be the first IMDB Top 250 movie we tackle with subtitles, not that I mind.
How does it fare with critics? We have another 100%. The problem? It’s based on 16 reviews. Opening the search to other review aggregators doesn’t help. Metacritic doesn’t know the movie even exists. IMDB has an overall rating of 8.1 out of 10 for the film based on a larger sample, but that includes viewers. I prefer to separate critical and general reception of the films. In this case, Rotten Tomatoes audience members chimed around 25,000 votes in to elect Stalker a 94%. This suggests that audiences and critics are in agreement pretty nicely, and it’s not an incredibly arty film. That is quite encouraging, since so far during this week we’ve had a somewhat vague synopsis, a REALLY freaky movie poster to look at, and no trailers in existence to sell us this movie. The fact that so many people enjoy it actually makes me a little more excited to watch.
“Seminal feature from Tarkovsky, the master of atmosphere and multi-functional allegory is truly affecting, as well as fodder for countless film studies curricula.”
David Parkinson, Empire
“Considering there is little in the way of action and that the plot moves in a slow and epic manner, it is surprisingly tense. The initial scenes in the industrial wastelands of the city are shot in bleak sepia, giving way to the vibrant colour and greenery in the Zone – one thing’s for certain, as they step off their hijacked train wagon, they’re not in Kansas any more.”
Amber Wilkinson, Eye for Film
“Like all Tarkovsky films it is grounded in finding one’s roots and knowing that one is possessed of an inner freedom-a supposed worldly weakness born out of a moral conviction that provides one’s faith to overcome the seemingly stronger forces in the world. The plot line weaves its way through a necessary spiritual crisis so that healing can begin. For the filmmaker, a spiritual crisis is an attempt to find redemption and acquire a stronger or new faith through the means of discovering the kind of love located in a zone no one can ever take away from mankind.”
So from the reviews I can gather that this movie is epic, dark, and potentially difficult to watch due to some aspect of its atmosphere. We’ll check that out for ourselves. I’m not usually one to look for too much symbolism while I’m watching a movie. There’s not enough time to sit and ponder it before something else in the plot happens. I’m intrigued by the second review that suggests the film gives you ample time for this by pausing, and this stoppage does not affect the pacing of Stalker significantly.
Well, we’ll see about all that!