Dreamlike, and lacking in narrative specificity, Stalker invites us to experience cinema as a purely visual and aural experience. The philosophical debates and existential pronouncements of its characters can be in turn thought provoking and come off as circular babbling. It depends on the conversation, and how much you’d like to, or are able to glean from that conversation.
The shots are stark, and have a stunning depth of field. Characters and objects move slowly, decisively from the foreground to the background, and vice-versa. I perceived it as a very 3D quality, whereas my friend drew comparisons to the nature of theatrical stages. Characters are often given close ups with the camera looking over their shoulder, either from the back or at an angle. This gives the impression that they’re always looking and thinking about something outside the visual and the narrative frame. Lastly, there are two contrasting colour schemes employed — a bronze brown nightmare for the real world, and saturated greens for the “Zone”.
Eduard Artemyev’s score is an interesting mix of what sounds like proto-synths and dramatic strings. A repeated sample is a high pitched sling shot-like reverb that sounds like a rubber ball bouncing around at an extremely high frequency. If I’m connecting correctly, Wikipedia says this is an Azerbaijani tar passed “through the effects channel [a] SYNTHI 100 synthesizer.” Overall, a lot of the slow long takes are gradually filled up with a swirling blend of the soundtrack, and the eerie set noises, until the sonic element completely engulfs the scene.
I was told to not draw any narrative conclusions from the dialogue and story. This is easy enough for most of the film but gets difficult in the last act, when some of the central ideas come into a sharper focus, and are described in more tangible terms. Most of this has to do with the wish-machine element of the “Zone”, and the primary character the Stalker’s role in the story.
Factoid: The film was initially completed then scrapped due to damage to the reels discovered during development. So the finished film is a second attempt from scratch.