Decades after his death, with only seven feature films under his belt, Andrey Tarkovsky remains the greatest film maker Russia has produced, under Soviet Union and thereafter, both in the collective critical film imagination, and probably in fact. His films were so multifaceted – from the stunning cinematography to the philosophical dialogue that always centered on the same question – what it means to be human – that to unpack their sheer elegiac sweep of his films requires a book.
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 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 philosophically infused dialogue about the meaning of life and human nature by the film’s three protagonists, the Stalker, who is simply the guide in the treacherous Zone that reads its visitors characters and intentions and changes accordingly, and hist two clients, the Professor and the Writer, whose true nature unfolds as the film progresses.