My third Tarkovsky's film (after SOLARIS 1972, 8/10 and NOSTALGHIA 1983, 8/10), STALKER is a startling eye-opener, set in a sordid clanking land of rural Soviet Union, after the falling of a meteorite, an enigmatic area "The Zone" has emerged, inside there is a room can grant incomers' innermost wishes, but cordoned by the government with armies, only with the guidance of so called "stalkers", one can reach the room. So the expedition involves one stalker and his two clients, a writer and a professor, one begs for inspiration and the other conceals an ulterior motive.
As one can predict, the film is teeming with Tarkovsky's trademark static/panning long shots, mesmerizing and conjuring up a recondite sense of metaphysics, for example, a steady long shot of various items in the water finishes with the focus on a human hand, sometimes it's baffling, as viewers (as well as the two clients) have been warned numerous times by the stalker, the place is precarious, many a predecessor dies mysteriously in the zone, among a large chunk of the time Tarkovsky successfully maintains the stifling suspense to tally with the seedy locale, the movement is painstakingly strung out, so the audiences cannot shun the unknown danger but only succumb to a thorough wallow in the wasteland. Tarkovsky never resort to cheap horror to give vent to excitement or relief, instead, he utilizes a man-made natural surrounding to trap oneself in, and let our own inside demon out to divulge a sense of thrill and frisson.
I don't speak Russian, so it probably hinders my apprehension of the dialogue, only if the English interpretation could be better, nevertheless, STALKER seems bit chattier than Tarkovsky's other works, their debate ranges from the philosophy of human beings' psychological trials and tribulations, the sociopolitical radicalism to the awe and frustration towards the mystery and miracles plus the unselfishness of art, etc. I may not be able to fully cover all the implications from the first viewing, but one can not deny here the luxuriant imagery is louder than words at any rate.
The cast is also memorable, the monochrome close-ups endow each character with a pictorial impact of their own resolution, the friend-or-foe association motivates the storytelling and excellently penetrates the harmony of the trio thus overshoots viewers' expectation.
Myself find the supernatural elements have been fascinatingly deployed in this film, scattering into many inscrutable shots, sometimes only in a jiffy and most strikingly is the ending, with the daughter of the stalker, mind-controls still objects until one glass falls on the ground but the sound is drowned by the strident train running nearby, which ultimately veils the film with a stratum of mystique that qualifies Tarkovsky as one of the most unique and essential filmmaker of all time!