“May they believe. And may they laugh at their passions. For what they call passion is not really the energy of the soul, but merely friction between the soul and the outside world.”


Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky is known for his meditative and poetic style, well-suited to this journey in which a “Stalker” leads two men through the abandoned Zone to find a fabled room that will fulfill the deepest wish of those enter. Stalker first shifts from monochrome to colour upon entering the Zone, suggesting more life exists in this desolate space than within the human society we left. Certainly, the Stalker’s attachment to (and preference for) the Zone is clear, whilst his companions are focused on their destination. Stalker‘s central theme is decreasing spirituality in society, and whether a lack of hope and belief inevitably leads to personal stagnation. Tarkovsky’s approach to science fiction provides a parallel lens through which to view Denis Villeneuve’s recent films: both directors use the genre less for storytelling than to absorb the audience in a world in which they proceed to conduct deep exploration of character and humanity. In this context atmosphere and stillness work together to expand the space for the audience’s mind to wander. As Stalker raises its questions, the camera drifts languidly across the Zone, embracing the dreamlike mist and reflective pools of water, or it processes deeper into the environment whilst isolating individual sounds or embracing silence and the thoughts of its characters. Tarkovsky’s style demands patience and Stalker runs too long for the ideas it has to communicate but, like poetry, its intention is the emotiveness — and not the efficiency — of its delivery.