Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Revisiting the dream sequence from Stalker (1979) by Andrei Tarkovsky

A man is lying down flat on the grass as if listening to the earth’s heartbeat. He soon falls into a dream. The dream can be imagined as a state of mind underwater. A voice is heard reciting a passage from the Bible about the end of the world as if it was a fairy tale. As the liquid sonic environment prepares the viewer, the camera begins its journey underwater. Everything now begins to swim in ochre, the color of rust and of time gone by. The first discernible object that appears is a syringe. Man’s addictions. Man is tied to the ground. A slave to his passions. A metallic bowl glitters in the reflected light of the sun rays that manage to penetrate this shallow stream of consciousness. Nature is reflected upside down. This is not the nature that we are part of. It is the nature as we see it. It is our work. A few fish swim as in a fish bowl. They seem to prefer the confined space of the fish bowl even if they are in an endless stream. We are accustomed to our confined spaces. Vast expanses frighten us. A box with coins and tools, a bottle. We have to work through our life and in the end we don’t live, we work. An old picture of a saint and coins. Religion with its not so otherworldly considerations. A machine gun. War and violence have always been present in the history of mankind. Rusty mechanical parts, a spring, barbed wire appear as remnants of an industrial age gone wrong or turned sinister. And then a torn page from a table calendar signifying the passing of days and a piece of string as if we are tied to this endless repetition of patterns. The camera moves slowly against the small current of the stream and we are surprised when the hand of the dreaming man appears slowly lying in a puddle of water. The way this hand emerges into our view so suddenly but also so fluidly dragging us out of this reverie is a masterful stroke unequaled in cinema. The black shadow delineates the contour of the hand in the liquid ochre and the dream is over.

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