May 15 movie: Stalker. Jumping ahead a bit because I watched this movie last night and I can't stop thinking about it. I had read that it was Tarkovsky's magnum opus and wanted to see it because I had loved Solaris. so much. And I have to say, if your reaction to Solaris was "that was too easy," then Stalker is for you. Watching it was full of contradictions: first of all, it's described as a science fiction movie, and has almost no science fiction content. It's gripping, and almost nothing happens for the entire (very long) movie. It's thoroughly engaging and thoroughly confusing. It uses some of the ugliest locations to create one of the most beautiful movies I've ever seen. Stalker is hard to pin down. I think I didn't really get the word numinous until I saw this movie.
The basic plot is that, long before the movie started, an asteroid crashed into a village. (The mention of an asteroid would be the sole science fiction element. I understand the story it was based on had more science fiction to it.) The government has cordoned off the village, now called "the Zone," and won't let anybody in. Rumors abound that deep within the Zone is a place where anyone's deepest wish will be granted. A guide called the Stalker (the meaning is more like "guide" or "wayfinder") leads two men, known as "Writer" and "Professor," into the Zone.
I don't want to say much more because I don't want to give anything away. And I definitely don't want to get into trying to decode Stalker, break it down into "what did this or that represent." Because first of all, I don't think I understood it well enough to do that. Besides, that would just feel like ... I don't know. Diminishing it as a work of art. So I'll just say that this is one to see if you like movies that give you a lot to think about, and movies that create intense mood & atmosphere, and you don't need movies to be crystal clear and wrap everything up in a neat package with a bow on top. Because Stalker is going to rip up that neat package, throw the bits everywhere, then piece it back together as some deranged collage and drop it under inky water and pan across it really slowly. And it will be incredible.
One last note: BOO to Criterion for not putting a commentary track on the DVD. By the end of the movie I really wanted a film historian with a soothing voice to go through it with me. [eta: the DVD is not by Criterion, it's by Kino. Boo to me for not checking before I shot my mouth off!]
One more thing: the tree frogs just started singing in the past couple of days. And they add a lot to the soundtrack. I wouldn't want to watch Stalker without them.