Tuesday, April 22, 2008

My favourite film

Well, "favourite" as in one of those works of art that become your companion of consolation and challenge, on your pilgrimage of life. You do not know if the work has so much appeal because you have "found" something that "speaks to you", or because the work has found, and formed, you. To watch Tarkovsky's Stalker with sensitivity is to be purified and made ready to re-enter life. On occasion I have found this film to have such transcendence, such reaching power, during viewing, as to evoke in me the joy that is inseparable from trauma. I mean trauma as in sitting there in your seat while having this physical, hot, crushing, purgating avalanche fall on you, while tears come to your eyes, and your soul rises.

I have seen the film numerous times on the Russico dvd. Then one time I had the privilege of seeing it in a theater, at some Russian film festival in Vancouver. And it was like seeing it for the first time. Lord, the Russico dvd is a strange thing. They have two "versions" in the one package. For some reason when they transferred the original soundtrack to 5.1 dolby, they thought, apparently assuming they knew better than Andrei Tarkovsky, that it would be superior if they added more sounds and musical strains and extended the duration of existing sounds which, being originally of shorter duration, were far more subtle. They also seemed to think it best to excise certain pieces of dialogue, and sort of neutralise what dialogue does remain. Though, that sounds worse than what it actually is, really, when you see it in the theater, the way it was and is supposed to be, what a difference you are able to see.

One bonus for the Russico dvd, you might say, would be the actual picture quality. Though even here, I can envision what Tarkovsky's reaction to it would be: too sharp! Too much sharp relief! Nonetheless, if you ever get a chance to see this film, either on dvd, or in theater (if by any chance you have a Russian film festival in town), it just may be something you won't regret. Though of course, there is no telling. If you do watch it on the Russico dvd, do not waste your time with the 5.1 dolby version. Just watch the original mono. The way Tarkovsky intended. It was a small miracle that the first time I watched the film, on the Russico dvd, not knowing about the two "versions", I unintentionally picked the original mono.

Ah, well. Tarkovsky suffered worse.

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