Stalker (Distinction Series) (1979)

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Released 2-Jul-2007

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Interviews-Crew-Alexander Knyazhinsky - Cinematographer
Interviews-Crew-Rashit Safiullin - Production Designer
Filmographies-Cast & Crew-Various cast and crew members
Gallery-Photo-Behind-the-scenes photo's
Short Film-Memory
Biographies-Crew-Andrei Tarkovsky
Menu Animation & Audio
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1979
Running Time 154:55 (Case: 163)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Andrei Tarkovsky
Studio
Distributor

Shock Entertainment
Starring Aleksandr Kajdanovsky
Alisa Frejndlikh
Anatoli Solonitsyn
Nikolai Grinko
Natasha Abramova
Faime Jurno
Ye. Kostin
R. Rendi
Case Amaray-Transparent-S/C-Dual
RPI $34.95 Music Eduard Artemyev


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame Russian Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Russian Dolby Digital 1.0 (96Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Anyone familiar with the cinematic work of the late Russian director, Andrei Tarkovsky, will have vivid recollections of many stark and haunting images contained within his films. Tarkovsky was a true cinematic artist and he didn't waste a single frame of celluloid on the mundane. He also used subtle sound to beautiful effect in all of his films. However, his films certainly don't appeal to everyone. Mainstream audiences will almost certainly shy away from Tarkovsky's deliberate slow pacing of ambiguous and philosophical themes. His films are metaphorical journeys that leave the enthusiastic viewer in contemplation for many days after, while the not so enthusiastic, experience complete boredom.

    Stalker was Tarkovsky's fifth feature film. While it is generally regarded as a work of science fiction, Stalker is also a deeply spiritual and symbolic film, which is void of the trademark special effects that usually accompany films of the genre. Instead, Tarkovsky creates a rich aura of mystic that rivals any film in terms of tangible atmosphere, with a profound sense of foreboding.

    Deep inside an abandon and desolate area of remote Russia lies a forbidden region known as The Zone. A mysterious force beyond human comprehension is said to dominate the area, possibly through previous alien activity. As a consequence, the area is regarded as highly dangerous and is pronounced forbidden by the government. Many people who previously entered The Zone have never returned, thus armed authorities now patrol its borders to prevent such intrusions.

    In the heart of The Zone is The Room, which holds the nucleus of this mysterious force. It is said that if you can enter this room, all of your inner most desires will come to fruition. For those desperate to find this salvation, it is essential that they only attempt the illegal journey with the help of an experienced guide, known as a Stalker. For a fee, the Stalker will risk his own life in assisting the intruders avoid the armed forces and negotiate the hidden perils within The Zone.

    Against the wishes of his wife, Stalker (Aleksandr Kajdanovsky) leaves her and his disabled daughter behind to lead another expedition into The Zone. Professor (Nikolai Grinko) and Writer (Anatoli Solonitsyn) have commissioned Stalker to take them deep into the heart of The Zone. Each has their own personal reasons for making the deadly journey, including the Stalker himself.

    The film begins in restrained sepia tones, which not only emphasizes the condition of life and the environment, but also establishes an immediate ambience. At 36:54, the film cuts to colour, when the trio begin to enter The Zone. Without revealing anything, the film again returns to sepia in the final scenes. Many films have used this black and white or sepia switch to colour and the most famous of these would undoubtedly be The Wizard of Oz. The similarities between Stalker and The Wizard of Oz are quite amazing. When viewing Stalker, keep your mind open and look for these similarities - I think you'll be quite surprised.

    Stalker also has a fascinating behind-the-scenes history. The first half of the film had to be completely re-shot after the film was accidentally (or intentionally) shot on experimental Kodak stock and could not be developed. This totally destroyed a years work and came very close to breaking Tarkovsky, both physically and mentally. Budget constraints meant that the re-shoot was very different from that of the original shoot. Production Designer, Rashit Safiullin discusses this in an interview, which is included in the extras on disc two.

    Stalker is presented here in a special two-disc edition. The films original interval has been maintained and each part is on its own disc. Part one has a running time of 62:44 and part two, 92:11.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video transfer for Stalker is quite excellent.

    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1:33.1, which is not 16x9 enhanced. The Internet Movie Database reports that the films correct aspect ratio is 1:37.1.

    Thankfully, the DVD authors have treated Stalker with the utmost respect. Sharpness and clarity was consistently high throughout the film. Blacks were very clean and shadow detail was generally outstanding, in sepia tone or colour.

    Colours appeared very well balanced, as were the sepia tones early and late in the film.

    No MPEG artefacts were evident in this transfer. There were no significant film-to-video artefacts to advise. The print used in this transfer was very clean and as a consequence, film artefacts were negligible, consisting of a few minor and infrequent lines.

    English subtitles are available in bold white. They were easily legible, but disappeared from the screen rather quickly at times. These subtitles are not burnt in to the print and can be removed.

    Both discs are single sided, dual layer discs. The layer change on disc one was undetectable. The layer change on the second disc was well placed during a scene at 59:54 .

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio transfer for Stalker is equally impressive.

    There are three audio tracks available, Russian Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s), Russian Dolby Digital 1.0 mono (96Kb/s) and Russian with English voice over Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s). The English voice over is a male voice speaking the translated dialogue over the top of the original Russian dialogue. This actually wasn't as distracting as I thought it might have been. Still, I think the original Russian dialogue with English subtitles is the only way to go.

    Dialogue quality seemed to be excellent, although my understanding of the Russian language is zero. Occasionally, audio sync appeared to be slightly out. However, it is likely that this is a legacy of the ADR process rather than a transfer issue.

    The original music score by Euard Artemyev is quite haunting and certainly enhances the ambience of the film.

    As previously mentioned, the original mono audio track has been included for the purists. Personally though, I was rather impressed with the 5.1 re-mix. It had the right amount of subtleness required for this film, combined with some excellent sound separation in the appropriate places.

    The subwoofer was also well used in the appropriate places. A fine example of this occurs early in the film at 5:10, with a passing train.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     The selection of extras in this edition provides some interest.

Menu

      The main menus are both well themed and feature animation, 16x9 enhancement and a music sample from the film.

 Disc one:

A fragment from the diploma work of Andrei Tarkovsky, The Steamroller and the Violin. (4:56)

    As the description says, this is only a small sample of Tarkovsky's 1960 diploma film, The Steamroller and the Violin, which has an original running time of about forty five minutes. It's a pity the entire film couldn't have been presented in this edition, but this is at least consistent with other versions of Stalker from around the world.

Tarkovsky's House (5:44)

    A strange short film titled Memory, which displays the decaying house that Tarkovsky grew up in.

Tarkovsky Biography

    Three screens of text information about the life and career of Andrei Tarkovsky.

Photo Album

    A collection of ten behind-the-scenes photos taken during the production of Stalker.

Disc two:

Interview: Director of Photography - Alexander Knyazhinsky (5:44)

    This interview was filmed shortly before his death in 1996. Alexander discusses his memories of the production.

Interview: Production Designer - Rashit Safiullin (14:22)

    A more comprehensive discussion about many areas of the films production, including the controversial destroyed film.

Interview: Composer - Eduard Artemyev (21:07)

Eduard discusses in detail his association with Tarkovsky and the three films that he scored for him, Solaris, Stalker and The Mirror. Some interesting and early footage of Tarkovsky has also been incorporated into this interview. It is worth noting that this interview is not found with the two previous interviews on the disc. You need to select the Filmographies extra, then select Euard Artemyev and then the Interview link. Many thanks to Joshua Hibberd from Shock DVD for pointing this out.

Text Based Filmographies:

  • Andrei Tarkovsky - Director, Production Designer
  • Rashit Safiullin - Painter, Production Designer
  • Nikolai Grinko - Actor
  • Alissa Freindlikh - Actor
  • Alexander Knyazhinsky - Director of Photography
  • Alexander Kaidanovsky - Actor
  • Anatoly Solonitsyn - Actor
  • Euard Artemyev - Composer "Includes the link to the video interview"
  • Boris & Arkady Strugatsky - Script Writers

    R4 vs R1

    NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

         I will compare this locally released region 0 edition of Stalker with the R1 Kino release of November 2006.

        The Kino release has an additional French audio track, with Spanish and French subtitles in addition to English. Both editions are two disc presentations with the same extras.

        By all reports, the Kino release does not quite match this local release in terms of transfer quality. Therefore, I would certainly stick with this region 0 release.

    Summary

         Stalker is a cinematic masterpiece. It is an amazing metaphorical journey that only improves with repeated viewings. Like most of Tarkovsky's films, Stalker is rich in haunting imagery and that will reward the patient viewer with a film experience they are unlikely to forget.

        The video and audio transfers are both excellent and do the film great justice.

        The selection of extras are relevant and interesting.


     

  • Ratings (out of 5)

    Video
    Audio
    Extras
    Plot
    Overall

    © Steve Crawford (Tip toe through my bio)
    Wednesday, August 15, 2007
    Review Equipment
    DVDJVC XV-N412, using Component output
    DisplayHitachi 106cm Plasma Display 42PD5000MA (1024x1024). Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
    Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
    AmplificationPanasonic SA-HE70 80W Dolby Digital and DTS
    SpeakersFronts: Jensen SPX7 Rears: Jensen SPX4 Centre: Jensen SPX13 Subwoofer: Jensen SPX17

    Other Reviews NONE
    Comments (Add)
    Same problems as Artificial Eye release - Anonymous
    Subtitle issues - Neil
    Stalker represents Cinema at its absolute finest - Murtaza Ali REPLY POSTED