The Cinephiliac Moment is a weekly series in which I choose a moment in a film where cinema reaches transcendence. This moment may be inspired by anything – the composition of the frame, the score, the edit, the narrative – but it is a moment in which cinema becomes something more than entertainment and possibly more than art. Read about the original inspiration for the project here.
The Leap to Faith - Stalker (1979)
As someone who grew up with nine years of Catholic school, but no faith whatsoever at the moment, Tarkovsky is the single filmmaker who makes me want to believe in God. His films are about faith and often the test of faith. Can Kelvin believe that something he knows is not his wife is actually his wife? Do we believe the bell maker’s son will actually succeed in creating the tower? Kierkegard wrote about the “leap to faith” that was required of Christianity, and Tarkovsky's Stalker, the filmmaker's greatest, most profound work, not only asks that of us his three wandering travelers, but us viewers. As the three travel by trolley to the Zone, Tarkovsky allows us as spectators to experience the ride into this foreign, truly alien land. The shots focus on the sides of the faces of these men, who simply take in what they see, as we listen to the constant rhythm of the trolley, crossing the tracks. And then, the sounds begin to change. We hear the foreign, alien sounds battle and clash against the Earthly, consistent sounds. There’s no way to describe the sounds – they aren’t mechanical, they just feel not of this world. There’s no rhythm to what we will hear, as the sounds slowly drown out the trolley. The trolley sounds never disappear – these men haven’t given into the Zone yet – but they dissipate, and we give into the sound of space. The Zone may be a land of absurdity, full of rules and logic that are never explained, but must be obeyed. And Stalker asks us to believe. It’s a film about giving into the impossible, even if we can’t see it. But we can hear it as the Zone pulls us in. We can feel its transcendent power; one we cannot see, but one we wish to. We begin to make the leap to faith.
Watch the clip here.