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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker: Morning at Stalker's house Part 1

After reading the quote, we are once again placed in an unfamiliar place. This time, we fade in from a very small circle and find ourselves standing in front of an entrance way with two slightly-opened swinging doors. Take a moment to notice how the floors and walls resemble the bar in the opening scene. Just before we pass through the doors, listen for the train whistle. That reminds me: the Kino DVD for this movie has a mono soundtrack, which is the original one, and a new stereo mix which adds sounds that were not there originally. Make sure you pick the mono one, as this is what Tarkovsky intended. Don't worry, the mono one sounds great. If you are curious, listen to the stereo one the next time you watch the movie. The sound in this movie is just as important as the video. Tarkovsky meant for this movie to be very tactile. All the ambient sounds are at the same levels as everything else in the soundtrack.

Once we are through the doors, we are in a bedroom. And just as we start looking around, we are abruptly placed just above a small table next to the bed. The table has a glass of water, a syringe, some cotton, an apple bitten into, crumpled paper, and a few pills on top of it. As the train goes by, the glass of water begins to move to the center of the table from the vibration. Or, at least, appears to. Now the camera pans left showing the woman (note that her eyes are shut) the child, and the man, whose eyes are open but he seems still as a statue. Now we pan back again to the table, and note that this time the woman's eyes are open. If you listen very carefully, you can just barely make out some music playing along with the rhythm of the train. Tarkovsky has commented that moving machinery rhythms sometimes will remind you of a song with similar pitch or rhythms. By the way, notice how the glass is still moving and rattling even though the train is long gone. When everything is quiet again we hear another train whistle in the distance. I feel bad for Stalker, because he's trying to sneak out of bed without making a sound, and I think we all know that's impossible. Besides, his wife is awake but he doesn't know that. The style of bed frame in this room is featured in many Tarkovsky films. Oh, and so are apples.

Stalker walks out of the frame to the right, a common move in this movie, just as the bartender did earlier. And, in neither circumstance, or any that follow, do we ever get to see what's off to the right. Actually, we do in one later scene, and it's shocking. Now comes my favorite camera move, one that Tarkovsky uses a lot in all of his films. Stalker walks off to the right, the camera lingers, and then you see the slight refocus so you know that someone is about to walk in front of the camera. Then Stalker moves into frame right in front of you and closes the swinging doors almost all the way shut, even though earlier it didn't seem like they opened any more as we passed through them. Stalker turns around tightly right before you like you’re in his way, and then walks off to the right again. Through the small opening in the doors we see his wife pop up in the bed, looking at us.

Next post tomorrow: Morning at Stalker's House Part 2: The confrontation!

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