[TARKOVSKY, ANDREI ARSENIEVICH. 1932-1986.]
STRUGATSKY, BORIS AND ARKADY. Typed Manuscript for Stalker, being the director's working script, [Leningrad: Dom Kino], 1977, 52 pp, with extensive annotations in ink or pencil; some pages added sometimes with notes on both sides of a leaf; ink sketch of "the Zone" on verso of p . Stapled in tan wrappers and titled on the front in ink by the director.
Provenance: Olga Kizilova, the stepdaughter of director Andrei Tarkovsky.
A.A. Tarkovsky was arguably the most important Russian film director after Sergei Eisenstein. The influence of Andrei Rublev (1966), Solaris (1972), Zuralko (1975), Stalker (1979) and his other motion pictures on international cinema is inestimable. "My discovery of Tarkovsky's first film was like a miracle," admitted famed Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman. "Tarkovsky is for me the greatest, the one who invented a new language, true to the nature of film, as it captures life as a reflection, life as a dream." "Every single frame of the film is burned into my retina," confessed Academy Award® winning actress Kate Blanchett. On reading Boris and Arkady Strugatsky's 1972 science fiction novel Piknik na obochine [Roadside Picnic], Tarkovsky at first suggested to fellow film director Mikhail Kalatozov that he adapt it. But when Kalatozov was unable to secure the rights, Tarkovsky decided to make it himself. It was almost a miracle it was even made: the original location was struck by an earthquake so Tarkovsky filmed in a closed hyrdo-electric power station near Tallinn in Estonia. Stalker was the last film Tarkovsky made in his homeland. Always at odds with the Soviet authorities, Tarkovsky was, at the height of his powers and celebrity, forced by the government to defect to the West in 1982. Stalker won the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at the Cannes Film Festival; and the British Film Institute voted it #29 on its list of the 50 Greatest Films of All Time, tied with Shoah (1985).
"Human love is the miracle capable of withstanding any dry theorisation about the hopelessness of the world," is how Tarkovsky defined the dominant theme of Stalker. "This feeling is our common and incontrovertible positive possession. But we no longer know how to love." Although uncredited, Tarkovsky worked directly with the authors on the screenplay that was loosely based on the novel, refashioning it with extensive revisions to reflect his personal poetic vision. He crossed out words and passages and inserted new ones; he trimmed some pages and pasted others and wrote on the versos nearly as often on the rectos of this typed screenplay. (He told Arkady Strugatsky, "For the first time in my life I have a script I can call my own.") In an unnamed country in the undefined future, a dubious Guide (or Stalker) illegally leads the Writer and the Professor through the forbidden bleak post-apocalyptic wasteland known as The Zone. "People have often asked me what The Zone is, and what it symbolizes," Tarkovsky replied: "The Zone doesn't symbolize anything, any more than anything else does in my films: the zone is a zone, it's life." (Tarkovsky suggested in an interview that The Zone, like Oz, may not really exist except in one's mind.) Here they search for the mystical and deadly Room where, on entering, one's deepest secret wish will be granted. Like The Wizard of Oz that it resembles, their quest is as much a philosophical as physical journey to achieving one's greatest desire. While the Writer seeks literary inspiration ("The world is ruled by cast-iron laws, and it's insufferably boring," he admits), the Professor hopes to earn a Nobel Prize by solving through scientific analysis the mystery of The Zone. There is the danger that entering the Room may uncover one's darkest unconscious desire instead of one's conscious wish. "In the end," Tarkovsky explained, "everything can be reduced to the one simple element which is all a person can count upon in his existence: the capacity to love."
Tarkovsky actually completed two films. The first one of 1976 was scrapped when the experimental Kodak color film was incorrectly developed and Tarkovsky fired the cinematographer. (The original script ended with a nuclear explosion.) The finished film was shot in 1978 much like The Wizard of Oz: the Zone was in color while the outside world was shot in sepia. This script evidently was for this earlier version. Here the character of Stalker differs considerably from that in the released film. Unlike the idealistic guide who offers hope to the hopeless in the final cut, he is here a menacing, hard-boiled customer with a criminal past who takes charge of the expedition to The Zone. Revisions in the script reflect Tarkovsky's slow transition of the character from "a kind of drug-dealer and poacher to a slave, a believer, a pagan of the Zone." Being a draft for the destroyed first movie makes this script all the more desirable.