Is Stalker a genuine SF movie? It is, but only with due respect to Dostoievsky’s words: „Fiction and reality are one and the same thing. Without reality there is no fiction.” The kind of fiction we find in Stalker is of the same nature with the fiction Nicolae Steinhardt (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicolae_Steinhardt) uses in his The Happiness Diary: one that „does not delude, does not lead to obscure lands of illusion, and is not a mere change of décor – the fiction of faith. That does not deny reality, but transcends it; that does not have to get out of the yellow room in order to leave it; that is not fiction after all, because it does not entertain the mind with a bunch (a human comedy) of other virtual– yet unessential – worlds, but rather makes it concentrate upon reality; which does not exclude science, but transfigures the world and the individual. ”
So, why be this particular film then? Mainly because nowhere else but in Tarkovski’s works (and arguably in Bergamn’s Nattvardsgästerna / Winter Light, Såsom i en spegel / Through a Glass Darkly, Tystnaden / The Silence or in Bunuel’s Nazarin and Viridiana, in some of Antonioni’s films) – and particularly in Stalker – does modern man’s inability to believe (transfiguring the world) and confess (transfiguring himself) hurt is such proportions. But confession is closely related to faith, and (post)modern man living in the glorious age of general deconstruction has increased his scepticism and believes, like the Writer, that "Conscience, remorse, are merely products of the brain...Who told you there is something going on here? Have you ever seen anybody leaving this place happy?” The whole odyssey towards Tarkovsky's Zone in order to pursue happiness is but a (failed) preparation for the most important moment in a man's life. The moment when he has to say nothing, he has to do nothing but concentrate and remember his own life, for "when one remembers his life, one becomes a better person". Perhaps this is the "clue" to Tarkovsky's charade: once we have reached (together with the Writer and the Professor) the threshold of the Room where, as they say, "the most powerful, tormenting and sincere desire becomes true", the Stalker makes us face the unavoidable question: Who am I? How would I react if a "stalker" (a guide) whom I incessantly suspect of hypocrisy (and whom I had imagined as looking completely different - „leather stockings, an impressive black leather suit, the looks of a dragon”) told me: „You only need to have faith!”? Would I be ready or would I resign, like the Writer does, and whose pride makes him say: “I’ll hardly be a better person if I start remembering my life….And don’t you see how shameful that is? To abase oneself, to grovel, to pray?” Or would I call for extreme measures (like the Professor does, who has prepared – not his soul, but rather a 20 kilotons bombs – in order to blow up “this famous place” for he cannot sleep easy in his bed as long as “this ulcer is open to any scumbag”. The place which “does not bring happiness to anyone” will not be blown up because of the Stalker, the “hypocritical worm” (called by the Writer “simply defective”), who – among bitter tears – tells the Writer and the Professor (but only them?): “Nobody has anything left in this world any more. This is the only place you can come to, if you’ve nothing else to hope for…That’s why you came! So, why are you destroying…faith?”
What exactly is, after all, the Zone (or “the yellow room”, as Steinhardt put it)? Tarkovski provides the answer, in his book, Le temps scellé: „The Zone does not mean anything, at least it does not mean anything more than what one can find in my films. The Zone is the Zone. The Zone is life, and the man who lives it either crushes or saves himself. It’s all up to the way one feels his own dignity and ability in discerning what is essential from what isn’t.” If Tarkovski is right, we do need – more than ever – such a Stalker (a guide) to help us transform into a dream the dirt we have filled our souls with, a guide to help us discern – in this very age of excessive zapping and claiming of all freedoms – what is really essential from what isn’t.