Zona: A Book About a Film About a Journey to a Room

Brilliant expansion on watching Tarkovsky’s 1979 film Stalker, replete with literary references from DeLillo, Thomas Mann, T.S. Eliot, Coleridge, Kundera, Rilke and film references from Wenders, Jarmusch, Goddard, Tarantino, von Trier (calling his film daft and stupid, much to my delight). The film itself is about a journey to the Room, a place where your innermost desires are fulfilled, a Room inside the forbidden Zone, which requires a guide (the Stalker) to get you there. He brings along with him Writer and Professor, who loses his knapsack and then once regained, produces a bomb which he intends to blow up the Room, later changing his mind. I’ve never seen Stalker (but it’s on the queue now), nor ever been as affected by a film as to devote this much energy into recreating it and picking it apart, layering it with philosophical, literary, and personal observations. The book was marred by the juvenile admission that the author’s greatest regret is not having had sex with 2 women at once (which he claims he shares with the majority of men), but with a deep sigh I persevered and enjoyed every other bit.

‘If the regular length of a shot is increased, one becomes bored, but if you keep on making it longer, it piques your interest, and if you make it even longer, a new quality emerges, a special intensity of attention.’ This is Tarkovsky’s aesthetic in a nutshell. At first there can be a friction between our expectations of time and Tarkovsky-time and this friction is increasing in the twenty-first century as we move further and further away from Tarkovsky-time towards moron-time in which nothing can last- and no one can concentrate on anything- for longer than about two seconds.

Or perhaps one of the novelties of our era is the possibility of instant boredom – like instant coffee – as opposed to a feeling that has to unfold gradually, suffocatingly, over time.

This wind that springs from nowhere, suddenly appearing with a force capable of carrying it across the steppes of Russia: genealogically it springs from the opening sequence of Dovzhenko’s 1930 silent Soviet classic, Earth (Zemlya), a film Tarkovsky watched ‘over and over again’ without ever being able to explain why it touched him ‘so deeply.’

Quoting from Berger and Bielski’s play A Question of Geography:
‘Each one of us comes into the world with her or his unique possibility – which is like an aim, or, if you wish, almost like a law.’ ‘The job of our lives is to become – day by day, year by year, more conscious of this aim so that it can at last be realized.’

When you’re happy, hope, like all the other big questions, becomes meaningless. It is possible, in parts of California particularly, to live a life devoid of hope (in what’s to come) and brim full of happiness (for what is here now). Elsewhere, hope has persistence and endurance on its side, is happy to stand around and wait – for things to get bad again, for happiness to pass.

Also reco’d by the fine staff of Spoonbill and Sugartown!