Watch Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker, the Russian Science Fiction Film That Inspired The Ocean’s Pelagial

  • Axl Rosenberg


As Dave Mustein noted in his glowing review yesterday, the lyrics on The Ocean’s new album, Pelagial, are based upon Stalker, a 1979 Russian science fiction film which is considered a classic in some circles. The film’s visionary director, Andrei Tarkovsky, has a hardcore film geek following (including the late Ingmar Bergman, who allegedly considered Tarkovsky the greatest filmmaker of all time) because he only made seven feature-length films before dying of lung cancer at the age of fifty-four. You may be inadvertently familiar with Tarkovsky in a roundabout way: in 1972 he adapted Stanisław Lem’s novel Solaris into a film, and then in 2002 Steven Soderbergh and James Cameron made their own version of the novel starring George Clooney.

In any case: No Clean Singing has brought it to my attention that Stalker is available for viewing, complete with English subtitles, via YouTube. (Obviously this isn’t a legal upload, but I’ll look the other way if you will.) Obviously, if you’re interested in Pelagial, watching Stalker has the potential to allow you to hear the album in a whole new way. But speaking as someone who went through a “Tarkvosky phase” in college (oh, to be nineteen and already know everything again), I would recommend watching Stalker even if you’re not interested in Pelagial… although I’m not gonna lie, Tarkovsky’s movies are glacially paced (his original Solaris features a dialogue-free shot of car driving down a highway that must last about seventeen hours). They’re also mind-bending masterpieces, though, so it’s worth the effort it may take you to get through it.

To further entice or dissuade you from viewing the film, here’s Amazon’s description:

“One of Andrei Tarkovsky(Solaris, The Sacrifice) most acclaimed films, Stalker is an unforgettable film experience that evokes the spiritual lucidity of Carl Dreyer and the unbridled imagination of Philip K. Dick. Since its release in 1979, Stalker has inspired filmmakers as diverse as David Lynch and Steven Spielberg and ensnared audiences in a labyrinth of striking imagery revealing the familiar in the strange, the poetic in the disturbing and the mythic in the mordant. In the near future, an unseen alien force has taken possession of an area of Russian wilderness that authorities, have dubbed The Zone. The only thing known for sure about the region is that few who enter it ever return. Led by a Stalker one of a small group of outlaws able to safely navigate the Zone, a renegade scientist and a cynical, burnt out writer penetrate the dangers outside in search of the power and transcendence rumored to exist inside. The Stalker longs to un-do a mysterious physical transformation the Zone has performed on his young daughter. The scientist will risk anything to see that reason triumphs over faith. The writer seeks a germ of inspiration that the crumbling and corrupt world beyond the Zone no longer provides. Together, these three men become desperate pilgrims walking a desolate trail leading to one of the most enigmatic and tantalizing endings in the history of cinema. A haunting and honest meditation on the intersections of science, feeling, and faith.Stalker is both profoundly unsettling and deeply moving.”

Now go make some popcorn (or maybe borscht in this case) and enjoy (or find yourself bored to tears by) Stalker:


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