Sunday, August 22, 2010
Raining in My Heart.
Few filmmakers studied the human soul as thoroughly and as constantly as Andrei Tarkovsky.
In Stalker, the Russian master delivered his most acute and precise dissection of what it is to be alive despite your knowledge that the whole world is pretty much made out of pain.
The movie follows three men in their attempt to enter a restricted area called "The Zone", where, who knows why, it's said that your deepest wishes are granted.
There's not really much of a "plot", in the common sense, to spoil about Stalker, since the film mostly relies on atmosphere and Tarkovsky's heart-stopping timing.
However in what could be the film's centerpiece (really could be, since it has so many truly majestic moments) we receive an unexpected punch in the gut.
As the three men come to a realization regarding their destiny, they sit next to each other contemplating what the future might bring them. Again, this is completely subjective, given how Tarkovsky makes no effort to elaborate or over-explain what goes inside his characters' minds.
As the camera moves away from them we see they appear to be framed, as if time had stopped for a moment and for the first time we see them as what they are; nothing but mortal beings in a universe that won't cease to exist once they're gone.
As they come to terms with their mortality and their utter smallness in the face of something that will prevail (in their particular case "The Zone"), Tarkovsky hits us with rain.
The fact that it's raining inside a room shouldn't be an issue, after all "The Zone" does as it wants, what's most surprising about this moment is the way in which Tarkovsky makes this rain feel purifying, mocking and dreamlike.
Rain has become a manipulative staple filmmakers use to highlight specific moments ("oh no my heart has just been broken", "uh oh here comes the serial killer") and Tarkovsky knows he wants to do just the same.
What becomes stunning is the ways in which he layers this common film trick. The rain begins as the sadness and longing in the characters becomes more evident but as the camera distances us from these men, this meteorological phenomenon takes on a different symbolism.
It has become yet another division between them and "The Zone" and between us and the film.
As if everything was about adding covers, layers and disguises, we never learn the true nature of what "The Zone" is and we are left with a deep sense of sadness at the realization that as a thinking species we are more limited than we would like to think.
This post is part of the "Loved Getting Wet Just Now" blog-a-thon hosted by my friend Andrew of Encore's World of Film & TV.