STALK­ING THE ELU­SIVE TARKOVSKY

Geist - - Endnotes - —Michael Hay­ward

Geoff Dyer has some­how carved out a ca­reer that per­mits him to write about any­thing he damn well wants. His lat­est, Zona (Canon­gate), is “a book about a film about a jour­ney to a Room.” The film is Stalker (1979), from the Rus­sia di­rec­tor An­drei Tarkovsky; the Room is the des­ti­na­tion of the jour­ney de­picted in Stalker: a mys­te­ri­ous cham­ber “ru­mored to ful­fill one’s most deeply held de­sires,” lo­cated at the heart of the for­bid­den, Ch­er­nobyl-like Zone (hence the ti­tle, Zona). To nav­i­gate through the Zone, and reach the Room, you need a guide: a Stalker. Watch­ing Tarkovsky’s Stalker for the first time is a cin­e­matic rite of pas­sage, which can leave view­ers with more unan­swered ques­tions than they started with. Is it a re­li­gious al­le­gory? A para­ble about the Soviet Gu­lag? What does the Stalker fig­ure rep­re­sent? And the mys­te­ri­ous Room? Stalker de­mands re­peated view­ings; at 160 min­utes, this is no small feat. Still, its fans are le­gion. Zona is Dyer’s at­tempt to un­der­stand and ex­plain his fas­ci­na­tion with Stalker. The book, writ­ten as a “take by take” guided jour­ney though Tarkovsky’s film, is in­ter­wo­ven with Dyer’s com­men­tary and con­jec­tures. Di­gres­sive foot­notes ebb and flow from the bot­tom of the page like tides. Zona is a lit­er­ary ver­sion of Mys­tery Sci­ence The­ater 3000, the cult TV se­ries in which three fig­ures (shown in sil­hou­ette at the bot­tom of the screen) kib­itzed while watch­ing sci­ence-fic­tion B films. At one point Dyer asks, rhetor­i­cally, “Do you think I would be spend­ing my time sum­ma­riz­ing the ac­tion of a film al­most devoid of ac­tion… if I was ca­pa­ble of writ­ing any­thing else?” His ob­ses­sion is con­ta­gious, and those who want to take a crack at Stalker now have a sump­tu­ous Blu-ray edi­tion from Cri­te­rion: a new 2K dig­i­tal restora­tion of the film, with an as­sort­ment of bonus ma­te­ri­als (in­clud­ing an in­ter­view with Dyer him­self).

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