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Stalker (movie)

Grinko, Solonitsyn, and Kaidanovsky in Stalker


Stalker (original title: Сталкер) was a 1979 film directed by Andrei Tarkovsky. It describes the journey of three men who are travelling through a post-apocalyptic wilderness called the Zone to find a room that can grant wishes. The Stalker of the title is played by Alexander Kaidanovsky, who guides the two others through the area. Anatoly Solonitsyn plays the Writer and Nikolai Grinko plays the Professor.

The film is based very loosely on the novel Roadside Picnic by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky. In the book, a central theme is that the Zone is full of strange artifacts and phenomena that apparently defy physics. A vestige of this idea in the film is the ritual, performed by the Stalker, of throwing metal nuts into one's path before walking anywhere. A similar action is described in the book, for the purpose of detecting gravitational anomalies that would crush the travelers.

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About the production

Tarkovsky had been assigned a large budget for Stalker, in order to match the success of his previous science fiction film, Solaris. The idea was that the Soviet Union should show that what Hollywood could do, the Russians could also do. The Strugatsky brothers had written an extensive script with several special effects based on their novel Roadside Picnic.

Tarkovsky responded by immediately removing all the sideline stories, and all special effects from the script. He thus restructured the whole story to be about one single philosophical subject from the original story: if you could have your innermost wish fulfilled, would you actually want to? The story was also rewritten into a very intense drama involving only three people.

The central part of the film was shot in a few days at a closed and deserted hydro power plant at the river Pirita in Tallinn. When the team got back to Moscow, they found that all the film had been improperly developed, probably because of problems at the laboratory. The photographer, Georgi Rerberg left the first screening session and never came back. Thus they had to go back and film the whole thing once again, now with Aleksandr Knyazhinsky as principal photographer. The weather was considerably colder by then, and the pain and frustration displayed by the actors is sometimes not a case of acting. According to sound engineer Vladimir Ivanovich Sharun these conditions might have even contributed to the early deaths of many of the people involved in the production.

It is believed that the events of the 1957 Chelyabinsk accident and the creation of the several hundred square kilometer "zone" outside the reactor [1] may have partially influenced the production of the movie. The explosion at Chernobyl seven years later is a rather circular moment in life imitating art imitating life. In fact, the remaining workers there refer to themselves as "stalkers" and the area they work in around the damaged reactor as the "Zone."

The crew

  • Director: Andrei Tarkovsky
  • Second director: Tarkovsky's wife Larissa Tarkovskaya
  • Editor: Lyudmila Feiginova
  • First camera: Georgi Rerberg (none of his footage was used, see above)
  • Second camera: Aleksandr Knyazhinsky (the footage used in the movie)
  • Sound designer: Vladimir Ivanovich Sharun (Шарун)

Cast

  • Stalker – Alexander Kaidonovsky (Александр Кайдановский)
  • Zhenya Stalkera (Жена Сталкера) – Alisa Freindlikh (Алиса Фрейндлих)
  • Писатель – Anatoli Solonitsin (Анатолий Солоницын)
  • Professor – Nikolai Grinko (Николай Гринько)

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