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Jack Hertz

Stalker by Andrei Tarkovsky and Eduard Artemyev

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Jack Hertz    923
Stalker (Russian: Сталкер) is a 1979 Soviet science fiction art film directed by Andrei Tarkovsky with a screenplay written by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky. Loosely based on their novel Roadside Picnic (1972), the film combines elements from the science fiction genre with dramatic philosophical and psychological themes.

It depicts an expedition led by a figure known as the "Stalker" (Aleksandr Kaidanovsky) to take his two clients, a melancholic writer (Anatoli Solonitsyn) seeking inspiration and a professor (Nikolai Grinko) seeking scientific discovery, to a mysterious restricted site known simply as the "Zone," where there is a room which is supposed to have the ability to fulfill a person's innermost desires. The trio travel through unnerving areas filled with the debris of modern society while engaging in many arguments. The "Zone" itself appears sentient, while their path through it can be sensed but not seen. In the film, a stalker is a professional guide to the Zone, someone having the ability and desire to cross the border into the dangerous and forbidden place with a specific goal.

The Stalker film score was composed by Eduard Artemyev, who had also composed the scores for Tarkovsky's previous films Solaris and The Mirror. For Stalker, Artemyev composed and recorded two different versions of the score. The first score was done with an orchestra alone but was rejected by Tarkovsky. The second score that was used in the final film was created on a synthesizer along with traditional instruments that were manipulated using sound effects. In the final film score, the boundaries between music and sound were blurred, as natural sounds and music interact to the point where they are indistinguishable. In fact, many of the natural sounds were not production sounds but were created by Artemyev on his synthesizer. For Tarkovsky music was more than just a parallel illustration of the visual image. He believed that music distorts and changes the emotional tone of a visual image while not changing the meaning. He also believed that in a film with complete theoretical consistency music will have no place and that instead of music is replaced by sounds. According to Tarkovsky, he aimed at this consistency and moved into this direction in Stalker and Nostalghia.

In addition to the original monophonic soundtrack, the Russian Cinema Council (Ruscico) created an alternative 5.1 surround sound track for the 2001 DVD release. In addition to remixing the mono soundtrack, music and sound effects were removed and added in several scenes. Music was added to the scene where the three are traveling to the zone on a motorized draisine. In the opening and the final scene Beethoven's Ninth Symphony was removed and in the opening scene in Stalker's house, ambient sounds were added, changing the original soundtrack, in which this scene was completely silent except for the sound of a train.

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