Thursday, November 05, 2015
I saw a 35mm print of Tarkovsky's Stalker a few weeks ago, deep in the mazy bowels of the Barbican Centre. Based on the novella Roadside Picnic, by Boris and Arkady Strugasky, its narrative follows a stalker who guides two clients through the forbidden Zone, an area imprinted by some unspecified event, to a room that is said to grant the true desires of those who enter it. Not their spoken, conscious wishes or ambitions, but something much more dangerous: their heart's desire. It's a slow-paced meditative film that leaves the interpretation of much of its dreamlike story and images to the viewer, and like a dream its atmosphere clings to you for some while afterwards. Whenever I think of the wretched Stalker, who keeps returning to the Zone even though it has made a ruin of his life, I'm reminded of a couple of lines from T.H. White's The Once and Future King (also, amongst other things, the story of a quest): 'The miracle was that he had been allowed to do a miracle. And ever, says Mallory, Sir Lancelot wept, as he had been a child that had been beaten.'