Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Canongate Books, 2012
240 pages about Tarkovsky's film "Stalker". Simultaneously, it’s memoirs, essays about everything, film history analysis, travelogue, but at the same time, not a collection of all the above, but something still not hasn’t been seen before. A novel about the film. Or this: a novel around the film. A new kind of film criticism. That you can write about a movie like that, everyone seems to understand since the birth of cinema, but nobody, however, hasn’t thought that it is still possible. Shot by shot analysis of the film, which was originally conceived as a film shot by one shot, but it’s a literature analysis. The transmission of each shot through the prism of your own "self."
The book begins as, in fact, the film does: with a description of the bar, where a visitor enters to. After that, Dyer suddenly jumps to a description of the phenomenon of the Zone, a place where the meteorite fell. And then Dyer jumps next, comparing Tarkovsky and Antonioni. These three very different fragments give an idea of the three main vectors of the book: Meditation and a retelling of what is happening in "Stalker", an essay on the abstract theme, inspired by the film; cinematic analysis of the film and its connection with European cinema in general. It is difficult to believe that 250-page book about a film can be read at one, but it is.
The excitement of "Zona" lays in a good composition of the three main components. The author does not go too far in favor of one of these components. Analysis of film history is replaced by inserting memoir, memoir by retelling of the film, it in turn by an essay, for example, on the topic of labor camps, and essays - by the story of the filming of "Stalker". Dyer juggles these components, entertaining the reader, but "entertaining" is not quite the right word. Dyer is still not a street circus and not a clown who uses tricks, and hard to find entertainment, once again, in a 250-page book about a film. However, Dyer manages to entertain with no very easy material. Dyer tries on different masks - what the reader will be closer to. To film lovers Dyer offers a deep analysis of the effect of "Stalker" on other films of that time (and the movies of our contemporaries), the intersection between all the films of Tarkovsky, the history of film. For fans of Tarkovsky Dyer offers reflections on the incarnation of Tarkovsky in the form of Stalker, on Tarkovsky-man and Tarkovsky-director. To a simple reader Dyer appears in the image of the swell guy: he jokes about group sex, drinking at the bar, the writers' craft and a backpack as a gift. All jokes, it should be noted, are funny, intelligent cast, and some flow in or derived from clever and subtle reflections on life.
His knowledge of the topic Dyer shows in copiously sprinkled throughout the book footnotes. Recently, I have not seen a non-academic book, which would have at least one footnote. Footnote here can take four pages, and some are a couple of paragraphs long.
Do you need to see "Stalker" before reading this book? For example, I have not seen it, but it does not interfere with the perception of the book, because "Zona" is also a novel. Dyer describes the film shot by shot: the picture appears before the eye of the reader.
The final of the book is in a particularly striking. Dyer seamlessly replaces a book about the film to a book about human desires. The room where wishes come true, remains for the stalker - and for the author - unattained.
The only flaw of this book, perhaps, is that the Strugatsky brothers, on whose novel "Roadside Picnic" was written the screenplay, had been just left on the roadside. The film, of course, is very different from the book. All the sci-fi components had been removed from the screebplay. And yes, this book is about Tarkovsky and "Stalker" and not about Boris and Arkady Strugatsky, but I still feel the injustice, because the immediate source was left beyond the scope of the book.
In general, it is clever and profound book - and in many ways unique.