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the zone

August 23, 2011

[Guardian] Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker (1980) came second, behind Blade Runner, in a recent BFI poll of its members’ top movies. In outline, it’s one of the simplest films ever made: a guide, or Stalker, takes two people, Writer and Professor, into a forbidden area called the Zone, at the heart of which is the Room, where your deepest wish will come true. It is this simplicity that gives the film its fathomless resonance. If Tarkovsky’s previous film, Solaris, seemed like a Soviet 2001, was Stalker Tarkovsky’s take on The Wizard of Oz?

The starkness of its conception did not prevent the production traumas that seem integral to the creation myths of other favourites: the likes of Apocalypse Now and Fitzcarraldo. Plans to shoot in Tajikistan had to be abandoned because of an earthquake. Having relocated to an abandoned hydroelectric power station in Estonia, Tarkovsky was dissatisfied with the cinematography and decided to shoot a pared-down version of the script all over again – in the same place. The price paid for this pursuit of an ideal is incalculable. Sound recordist Vladimir Sharun believes the deaths from cancer of Tarkovsky (in 1986), his wife Larissa and Anatoly Solonitsyn (who plays the Writer) were all due to contamination from a chemical plant upstream from the set. (read)

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