A Circuitous Journey
A few weeks ago, I picked up the new Geoff Dyer book at my local library-- and because I really like Dyer's writing, I wasn't disconcerted by the fact that the book claimed to be about unlocking the mysteries of a Russian science-fiction film called Stalker, which I had never seen-- nor even heard of-- because I assumed that Dyer would simply be using the film as a springboard for his trademark digressions (as he did in his "biography" of D.H. Lawrence-- Out of Sheer Rage-- which you can find in the BIO section of the library, but the book never actually becomes a biography of Lawrence, and instead is a treatise on procrastination) but this recent book, which is called Zona: A Book About A Film About A Journey To A Room, is actually about what it is billed as being about, the film Stalker, directed by the renowned Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky . . . so I took the book back to the library and spoke to a friend of mine, a film buff, and he told me I had to watch Stalker before I read the book, but that it wasn't going to be easy . . . and he was right, it wasn't an easy viewing, and this may be because I am certainly no film buff . . . I came to movies rather late in life and I have a limited attention span . . . and so it took me days to watch Stalker, which is nearly three hours and famous for its interminably long shots where relatively little happens-- and while I am glad I watched it, as it is compelling, ambiguous, profound, and beautifully filmed story-- and the journey of Stalker, Writer, and Professor is both archetypal and unforgettable-- especially the last scene-- while I admit all this is true, I think I came to this film too late in my life to really appreciate it, and Dyer explains this phenomena in the book: he explains that he saw Stalker when he was twenty-four and in a phase when he was doing a lot of LSD, and he became obsessed with the film, in a way that doesn't happen once you hit thirty or forty . . . he explains the sad fact that you probably won't see the film you consider to be the "greatest" after the age of thirty, and definitely not after the age of forty-- your ability to have your perceptions altered, your ability to respond to art with maximum focus and obsession, this declines with age . . . and so I am stuck with the films of the '90's as my benchmark movies: Goodfellas and The Big Lebowski and Fargo and Reservoir Dogs and the documentaries of Erroll Morris . . . not that a few films from my early thirties haven't snuck into my pantheon . . . Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Adaptation . . . but most of my films are light-weights compared to the greats-- fast-paced post-modern fun, as opposed to profound aesthetic journeys, and there is probably not much I can do about it . . . and funny thing, I actually reading about Stalker more than I enjoyed watching it . . . so I am guessing I will never become a cinephile.