If you are into film, Andrei Tarkovsky’s “Stalker” needs no introduction. The 1979 Soviet picture has become a staple of any film school curriculum and a must-see for any cinema connoisseur. And if you have never seen it on a big screen and live in New York, you are in luck, because the new digitally restored version, distributed by Janus Films, now plays at the Lincoln Center Film Society through this Thursday. Based on what is arguably the most famous Soviet science fiction novel, “The Picnic on the Side of the Road” by the Strugatsky brothers, it’s an exercise not only in masterful film-making but in film as philosophy. The picture’s deathly location sets of the Zone, an alien-created place where our innermost desire come true, are only matched by the insightful dialogue about the meaning of life and human nature between the film’s three protagonists, the Stalker, who is the guide in the treacherous Zone that reads its visitors characters and intentions and changes accordingly, and his two clients, the Professor and the Writer, whose true nature unfolds as the film progresses.
It was hard for me to tell whether the digital restoration improved the picture quality in a significant way, since I have not seen the film in a few years, but a friend of mine swore that it was a definite improvement over the original. The sound sounded a bit too metallic for my taste, but maybe this was the intention. In any case, this is a rare chance to see this classic in a cinema, so don’t miss it.