Friday nights are made of this
Strasbourg’s superb city centre cinemas continue to distract me, this time with a fortnight of films by Andrei Tarkovsky at the Odysée. I’ve not had the time to see all the films I wanted to, but Friday offered an unmissable late night treat with a 22h30 showing of Tarkovsky’s 1979 film Stalker. The conditions were sadly less than perfect, with broken seats (no, they don’t recline on purpose, they’re just very tatty) and several couples who couldn’t wait until the end of the film to whisper questions and interpretations of the film’s complex meaning and story to each other – usually just as the ethereal soundtrack softened to the beautiful musical-semi-silence of water dripping in an echoing chamber. It was still, however, a special occasion to see this remarkable film on the big screen.
In the past I have described how the world’s ‘great’ cities are utterly representative of the nations in which they are located, but unlike anything else in that particular country. For instance, New York City could only be in America, and yet it is completely unlike any other place in that country. The same is true of Paris for France and London for Great Britain. I’d extend that analogy to Stalker, in that it is so majestic and beautifully measured that it could only have been produced in the Soviet Union; and yet its story is so unusual and bound with supernatural elements, that it is almost impossible to comprehend how Tarkovsky was allowed to make it.
If you get the chance to see this film, I guarantee that it is two and three quarter hours of your life that is worth investing. That is dependent, however, on you leaving your preconceptions of science fiction and mystery films at the door: Stalker was the product of a director and a system so radically different to that of western cinema that it can leave audiences utterly clueless, or rather unwilling to accept their cluelessness. A beautiful, beautiful film…