Stalker by Andrey Tarkovsky

8 min readNov 28, 2023

Stalker is a 1979 Russian film made by the celebrated director, Andrey Tarkovsky. I watched the film on Sunday and I am still thinking about it. This movie moved me profoundly. It challenged everything that I knew about films & art and is taking me on a deep journey towards art.

I liked the title ‘Stalker’. In the film, the Stalker is a guy who risks his life to take people to a place called ‘The Zone’, heavily protected, where desires get fulfilled. He takes a Professor and a Scientist to the Zone against the wishes of his wife and returns back. That’s the film.

During the journey, the three of them discuss some deep question on faith, life, present, future to name a few. The minimal dialogues and very minimal acting is filled with lots of silence and pauses. Every shot is long allowing the viewer to soak in that space for a minute and then move to the next one. There is no attempt to speed up, increase tension or follow a specific style. The movie flows slowly like a river.

The film captures everything. It travels through dirt. It travels through darkness. It travels through evil. It absorbs everything. It transcends duality and makes everything look good which is non duality. It is simple and it is complex. It traces the shallow waters and goes very deep.

It was like a travel deep within ourselves. The director doesn’t want anyone to make meanings. But my mind is conditioned this way and so, it is trying to interpret what it saw. The dirt, the litter, the filth, the darkness are all inside. It is not easy to accept them. They walk through it. They face the fear and uncertainty to go into those ugly terrains. They doubt themselves. They keep checking whether they are on the right path. It is dark. It is weird. It is scary. They believe that it is worth it. They could be right or they could be wrong.

A few snippets of dialogues to show the depth -

“All the technology and tools, at any rate, with all the hustle and bustle, make people work less and consume more. They are like crutches, artificial limbs”

“Once, the future was a continuation of the present. It loomed somewhere beyond the horizon. Now, the future is part of the present”

Most recently, I had shared a similar thought on the future and hope with a friend. That friend said that hope is about living in the future and is similar to fear but in a positive way. I argued that even though the thoughts are about the future, the thoughts are in the present moment. I don’t know who is right.

I have never seen a film like Stalker. It speaks a film language that nobody has created before. It is just not possible to see this essence in any other film in any other language. It is insanely truthful, pure and original. It is a creation.

There was a sephia tone at the start of the film and it turned into color at some point. There was no flashback or anything. It was defying every rule and every thing we know about cinema. My mind was trying to connect the dots for sometime and it quietened after some time by the silence & the pauses.

The film defeated the mind and the conditioning that looks for logic, patterns and imitations. I realized that I was using my eyes to look at the film and it wasn’t helping. I had to ‘see’ and seeing doesn’t happen with eyes alone.

It was pure.

It was poetic.

It was meditative.

It was art.

It was spiritual.

It had healing powers.

It had powers to read my mind.

It is LOVE.

It was a man’s love for art and for his craft to pursue art to answer some existential questions.

After watching this film, I started searching for anything and everything about Andrei Tarkovsky.

He had said,

‘We are looking instead of seeing’

‘We are hearing instead of listening’

‘We become aware of colors only when we are told’

The truth of life is not the same in the truth of Art’

To me, the Stalker is the ‘awareness’ that is aware of the inner voice as well as the external actions. It is this awareness that helps us to listen instead of just hear. It helps us to see instead of just look. It helps us to feel instead of just touch. It helps us to taste instead of just eat. It helps us to smell instead of just inhale. It is a new sense that helps us to become sensitive.

One woman had sent Andrey a letter written to her by her daughter, and Andrey had written that the young girl’s words are a remarkable statement about artistic creation as an infinitely versatile and subtle form of communication:

How many words does a person know?’ she asks her mother. ‘How many does he use in his everyday vocabulary? One hundred, two, three? We wrap our feelings up in words, try to express in words sorrow and joy and any sort of emotion, the very things that can’t in fact be expressed. Romeo uttered beautiful words to Juliet, vivid, expressive words, but they surely didn’t say even half of what made his heart feel as if it was ready to jump out of his chest, and stopped him breathing, and made Juliet forget everything except her love? ‘There’s another kind of language, another form of communication: by means of feeling, and images. That is the contact that stops people being separated from each other, that brings down barriers.

Will, feeling, emotion — these remove obstacles from between people who otherwise stand on opposite sides of a mirror, on opposite sides of a door. . . . The frames of the screen move out, and the world which used to be partitioned off comes into us, becomes something real . . . And this doesn’t happen through little Audrey, it’s Tarkovsky himself addressing the audience directly, as they sit on the other side of the screen. There’s no death, there is immortality. Time is one and undivided, as it says in one of the poems. “At the table are great-grandfathers and grandchildren . . .”Actually Mum, I’ve taken the film entirely from an emotional angle, but I’m sure there could be a different way of looking at it. What about you? Do write and tell me please . . .

Andrei had shared some deep thoughts on art and spirituality.

According to him, art starts manifesting when man starts searching for the meaning of life. Art helps us in this pursuit. Knowledge leads as away from knowledge. The more we know, the less we know Art enriches man’s capabilities and helps him to rise above himself so that he can use something special called ‘free will’ says Andrey.

He had focused a lot on ‘The meaning of life’ and asked,

What is the meaning of life?

Why do we exist?

Where do we come from and where are we going?

What is the purpose of our presence during the 50–80 years on this planet ?

According to him, any person who has not asked this question is not an artist because he is not a realist.

He had further said,

“The more the evil triumphs, the more reasons there are to create art. As long as humans exist, they will strive to create. It is the creation that binds them with the creator. Art is, in fact, prayer”.

When asked about the influence he has from other great filmmakers of his time including Bresson, Kurosawa and Ingman, he said, “NONE”. He further added, “I have no desire to imitate anyone. Since the main goal of any art is to find a personal means of expression. A language with which to express what is inside of you”

I am captivated by the depth and the curiosity of this extraordinary filmmaker. While watching the film, a few more questions emerged for me?

  • Why does a camera move? What does it communicate through its motion?
  • Why color instead of sephia or black & white?
  • What is the role of music? Why do we even need it?

Growing up in India, there was a heavy focus on certain types of art — The Art of survival, The Art of competition, The Art of getting good marks, The Art of acing exams, The Art of obeying….. Freewill was not allowed to express at home as well as in school. The society doesn’t understand art and doesn’t appreciate art. The meaning of life has been reduced to buying a house, fancy car, material possessions and assets. Nothing that we use in our everyday lives ranging from shoes to shirts to TV to cars to computers to Google to was created by us… NOTHING!

The society has stopped creating and it celebrates imitation. The world around us is a poor imitation of the western world. The things around us are imitations. The culture is an imitation. The education system, the health system, the legal system…everything is an imitation. We are like the mimicry artist who mimics other people’s voices. We are mimicking western societies. Our analysis, understanding and awareness is very shallow.

As a kid growing up in Nagamalai, I could roam freely, drink water taken from the well and breath fresh, clean air. Today, in India, these are luxuries. Even a billionaire like Ambani cannot afford to breathe clean air. We have polluted everything from our air to water to culture to lifestyle and even, livelihoods.

As a country, India needs more art. It has to ask the famous Ramana Maharishi question, ‘Who am I?’ for itself.

Why am I talking about society, India and all these things. That is the impact this film had on me. It was better than any book (although it was adapted from a book) and it has now led me to Russian culture and literature.

I have decided to watch all of Tarkovsky’s films and also, I am also going to read ‘Sculpting in Time’ by Tarkovsky. I want to read a few books from the Russian literature, especially of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, which is highly praised in the literary world.

After watching this film, I now understand why my Russian friends like India and its philosophy so much. The people are deep. They have been explorers, both the inner space and the outer space. When the soviet collapsed, people realized that the ‘facts’ they believed all through their lives had alternatives. It was a big inflection point. The ground under their feet was not existing anymore. They went inside for answers. They looked for philosophies outside their culture and related powerfully with Indian philosophy.

I reached out to a Russian friend of mine and shared about this film. She said, ‘Vijay, you are blessed. I am glad that the film called you’.

When I asked her to recommend a book either from Tolstoy or Dosoevsky, she asked me to read ‘Hard to be a God’ by the Strugatsky brothers.

Do I need to say more?




Father, Entrepreneur & Writer; Edison award winning innovation; Daytime Emmy nominated animation; Author of two books; WEF Davos, Cannes Lions, TEDx