I saw Stalker late one night, when I was a teenager, and I wasn’t savvy with Soviet Cinema at the time. I wondered what the hell I was watching. The film defies many Western conventions of cinematic storytelling. Nothing much happens and its all, well... just plain weird. It’s an enigma wrapped up in an enigma.
Stalker is open to interpretation. The Zone is a kind of paranormal area, or in storytelling terms a metaphysical space of new possibility. Entering it seems to take the visitors into a kind of 4th dimension, like a Cubist painting, the space in-between space.
Stalker really is an art film. It’s not about aliens or strange places but about people and life, and the self. The landscape and industrial ruins are reimagined in a very Duchampian manner. Cinematically this whole world is akin to a ready-made: the ordinary becoming extraordinary.
A working-class character (the Stalker) takes two bourgeois characters (Writer and Professor) into the Zone, a mystical place where people go in search of The Room. And the two middle-class characters return exhausted and dirty. In a way, more working-class, more like the Stalker.
The mysterious Room is a place where people’s wishes are granted, or — more likely — where they gain an insight into themselves. Maybe The Zone has special powers, a magic of sorts, or perhaps the journey to the room is a learning experience that provides that self-knowledge?
The nothingness of The Zone provokes anxiety that leads to self-reflection — it’s a kind of mind-expanding experience. And that’s where the journey really takes place, in the mind. It’s like that other room, the cinema in-which the audience is watching this film.