Friday, 16 November 2007

Tarkovsky's Zone – A Modern Day Tabor

The substantial book by Elena Dulgheru (Andrei Tarkovski - Filmul ca rugăciune) has a whole chapter dedicated to the way the Russian film director approaches the recurrent theme of hominess. The chapter is called „The Taboric space of the home”. The main theme in Stalker is the epiphany of experiencing the Sacredness. Yet, this is no easy task – even more so in our multicultural age - to speak about the Sacredness, about its topography and about „the place where man meets God” (Which God? Which meeting?).

In the Christian tradition, according to the Gospel, The Mount Tabor represents, doesn’t it, the place where Christ has revealed himself to his Apostles (Peter, James and John) as well as to the Just of the „Old Covenant” (Moses and Elijah) – the presence of the latter ones signifying the continuity between the two "paradigms". The above mentioned episode is also called Transfiguration – the place where man feels like shouting (as in Goethe’s Faust: "Verweille doch! Du bist so schön!" / "I say to the moment: Stay now! You are so beautiful!". At that very moment, frightened and speechless, Peter will have said to Jesus: „Let us build three huts; one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah” while Jesus, according to the Gospel, „was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light”

As Elena Dulgheru points to it, The Stalker himself says something similar on the threshold of the Room (where none of them enters), planning – as he possibly would every time when he got to that point – to move there with his wife and his cripple daughter: “How good it feels to be here! It is so quiet! Nobody can harm us here!” Why particularly there? Because there is one’s true home, where people’s badness is harmless and no one can harm you. Where is people’s badness harmless? Wherever God’s blessing has been laid down, and humility (word that comes from humus = clay, in Latin) has conquered vain glory. But suddenly, the Stalker adds: “No one lives and cannot possibly live in the Zone”. Therefore, the Zone (being understood as a Taboric space) is the very place which man’s impoverished heart has always longed for. It is the place where everything comes true and even wonders happen if you “concentrate and recollect your life”, because “when someone secretly recalls what he has lived through, he becomes a better person.” “Our moods, our thoughts, our emotions, our feelings can bring about change here.” – says the Stalker. All one has to do is wait – as in Waiting for Godot, for example – and obey the complicated system of traps in the Zone, which “demands respect, otherwise it will punish you”. Here is where the circle closes in order to form another one, full of forever new variables and mysteries. For what exactly one should ask for? What exactly one should wait for? Yet, do we still feel like wanting something, anything for that matter? Are we still ready to sacrifice our vain whims? The Writer (as well as The Professor) does not wait for anybody or anything, he does not want anything at all – nobody does – and does not hope for anything. "Nobody has faith anymore, not just these two" – says the Stalker to his wife, once he returns home, exhausted and almost sick. Yet, his bitterness does not prevent him from going back to the same mysterious place, again and again: the Zone, the Tabor, the Grail.

Another paradox: no one has faith any more, nothing has been left but trivial “curiosities” and selfish expectations – The Writer hopes to find his lost inspiration, while The Professor tries to blow up the Room where wishes come true for what will happen “when everyone believes in this famous room? When they all scramble for it? It’s just a question of time! If not today, then tomorrow, and not dozens of them, but thousands! All those uncrowned emperors, grand inquisitors, führers and such benefactors to humanity! Not for money, or for inspiration, but to remodel the world!...”. Still, the Stalker cannot help bringing new “clients” to the Zone, people who’ve got no other hope left. A certain change has happened though – the episode in the bar scene (at the end of their existential odyssey) speaks well in this respect: the Writer is smoking absent-mindedly (as if he was in deep thinking), while the Professor looks confused (as if he, too, was trying to figure out the mystery of this capricious and incomprehensible place, the mystery of this “holy fool” who seems determined to have faith when there is hardly anything left to believe in, when everything seems – like in an absurdist drama – an enormous prison.

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