Congratulations Andres on the festival STALKER and the ‘cassette’ “Stalking Stalker” (Stalker book and musical interpretations) it is clear that you are something of a Stalker nut. For those not so familiar with the legacy of Stalker and Tallinn, what is the connection?
Well, not exactly a Stalker nut, but some kind of a nutcracker, I hope. The film was indeed mostly shot in and on the outskirts of Tallinn from 1977 till 1978. In fact, Andrei Tarkovsky shot it twice, and we are now organizing a festival to celebrate Tarkovsky’s impact on cinema as a whole and his great effort as a thoughtful human being and an artist. There are several locations that still carry physical marks of his presence while he was shooting “Stalker”.
Is Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner to the west what Stalker is to the East, it contains the same core themes about identity, humanity and meaning.
Identity yes, and basically it’s about human beings, even though they are robots, it’s still about people. And I think Tarkovsky is obviously concerned about man, the contemporary human and humankind. The Sci-fi element is through the original story Stalker was based upon, the Strugatsky’s ‘Roadside Picnic’, which was a sci-fi novel. Although Tarkovsky, he turned it into something different, something mystic. He is a mystic, and most of all he is a poet and an artist. By the way, he thought that art and film are bigger than life. But the comparison between Blade Runner and Stalker is there. Maybe it’s rather surprising to some that Stalker is first place in many film charts, serious film critics, film historians and directors consider Stalker to be the most important film of all time. It sits alongside other films from Hollywood such as Blade Runner and Citizen Kane quite comfortably.
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Citizen Kane, the rise of the media mogul, a breed to affect and manipulate the world. Is art still meaningful, has science replaced art?
They say, and I agree, that artists are the new proletarians, they are the ones who do the hard work and everybody else in this industry is living off their work, but that is another issue. Speaking of the science connection, Tarkovsky shot another sci-fi movie, Solaris, which he was not that satisfied with, so he went on and into a much darker place with Stalker. He completely changed the main Stalker character from the book. In the book he was a macho character, a leader, an adventurer. The Stalker in his film is a tender man, always in doubt, he is questioning life, himself, questioning everything. And the Zone, the Zone is described as a life form. Something with a consciousness of its own. It’s the main character in the film although it never really speaks, it’s distant. I’m guessing that would be the how you would possibly describe the ethereal ‘somebody’, the divine creature. He has that relationship, a religious relationship with the Zone. I mainly try to derive new themes from the movie and jump into a different place hence the subtitle of the festival, Contemporary Fairy Tales. Reaching for something that is kind of there but it still doesn’t have a name yet, and that is definitely an adventurers approach.
I appreciate people who appreciate that attitude, the avant-garde basically.
We have reached one of the filming locations, next to the harbour across from the Linnahall (city hall) next to Ökosaar where they shot one of the first scenes in the movie. It happens right after the café scene where the writer, the professor and Stalker first meet. It was early morning the writer had been partying all night long. And the scene features an open top sports car with a beautiful lady. It was famous model and beauty queen, Faime Jürno, and mother of great guitarist and rock band leader Tambet Jürno. During the 70s she was even more well known than Carmen Kass is now.
The STALKER festival begins on Aug 24th and runs until 28th in Tallinn as part of the European Capital of Culture 2011 initiative, can you explain how the events connect together and what lasting effect you would like to have from this?
As the festival is on for the first time this year, we do speak a lot about Tarkovsky and the issues derived, I would like the festival to develop into a strong cultural landmark, that will be much more than a mere homage to “Stalker”. I think this year’s programme strongly hints at what can be and what will be. All the artists, performers, composers and film makers in the festival line-up are strong charismatic people. People of independent minds. Artists like Planningtorock or Ilpo Väisänen or the film directors Paradjanov, Chris Marker or Bela Tarr most certainly represent greatness.
What is the attraction of Tarkovsky all these years later, why is he so enduring?
I think, like all truly great artists, Tarkovsky had a strong vision in his creations, and beacause he kept with it so persistently, which was one of the reasons he got to shoot only seven films. And his honesty.
Now we are at a 2nd location from the film. The letters on the chimney were painted 33 years ago, still very well preserved. UN, and this is the angle they shot it from, next to this former heating centre and energy plant. From the 1930s this was giving power to Tallinn. This is also a location where we will have some of the concerts and livecinema, the concerts from August 26th will be opened by Veiko Õunpuu, Mart Taniel and Ülo Krigul as The Stylophonic Orchestra of Eurasia. But the festival starts at the Temnikova Kasela gallery, Lastekodu 1, with Tarkovsky’s polaroids on Aug 24th. Called Bright Bright Day and then the film programme will go on for 5 days at Kino Sõprus.
The musical selection which has accompanied your beautiful book is very appropriate, haunting and harmonious, is it a purely personal selection?
Thank you for appreciating it. I believe it was more or less an autocratic process, but I listened to other people as much as I listened to my heart, so I hope it’s a heart-to-heart experience. I want it to sound like a journey to the Zone. All the tracks have a somewhat independent consciousness to them. They live their own lives, if you please… And an element of timelessness was kept in focus during the selection process. Arvo Pärt’s “Pari intervallo” is the kernel of the CD. Music is 50% organised sounds and 50% emotions and the physicality or your own reality, while you’re experiencing the music.
A great movie is something which demands a deeper look, it leaves you with questions. The more you have to think the more meaning you can find in your own life. It can help you fit better into your own skin.
Well, there you go, the best definition of the best pieces of art is something that gives you new life and new breath and have a great impact on you, But also great art is always personal, each person has a relationship with what they got out of it, and that is very important as well. It can’t be defined what it is, but it speaks to you. It’s a personal relationship.
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The main purpose of art that it humanizes, enables one to become more aware, empathic, tolerant less fearful more open minded, I hope so.
Exactly, it tears you out from your little automations, you get out of the routine, that is exactly the mechanism there. So, once again, we are after that. J’accuse, you should try to revisit the great masters, why are they great, where are the new ones? It always makes sense to commit a little patricide, not tearing it down completely but questioning, this is how you start a relationship.
Stalker is obviously a truly powerful semioligical landmark for several generations of people not only from Estonia and other former Soviet Union countries, but from all around the world. And as the film is important not only for it filmic qualities but also the wonderful soundtrack many sound artists consider this work by Eduard Artemyev, as one of the most inspiring sound art pieces. For example Ilpo Väisänen, coming from Finland, who is one of the PanSonic duo guys with Mika Vainio, is coming, also featuring on the cassette. He has the most conceptual piece on the cassete called Stress Light and it very much creates the atmosphere of the film. It‘s important to explore the feeling/mood in which the director was shooting this film. They were still Soviet union times, the film represents the situation beetween the opposition of the powers and the people, and also the negativity and jealousy of the co-creators and other film makers.
How did such an anti-authoritarian movie get made? There is a displayed a subversive and blatant form of rebellion, looking for something more in life other than a system can provide, going outside of the conventional, allowed reality.
It is about being on the verge of some personal crisis the reason they go into the Zone. Especially Stalker trying to take care of his family but also obsessed with the Zone, he had some other relationship with the Zone, The oppression, depression, impression, and expression of the times all hinge on these extremely difficulty conditions.
I like the comparison that Peeter Laurits makes in the cassette Stalking Stalker to promote the festival and tell the story. There is Stalker and the punk phenomena and the negation of his surroundings as they were. It gives you a picture and speaks to the people who understand what punk meant or what it still does mean. In 1979 and the film was premiered in Tallinn at cinema Sõprus in Soviet Estonia. He was a teenager going through all these hesitations and doubts.
The weird thing is punk in the former Soviet Union was initially mainly for intellectuals. At that moment, the end of the 70s early 80s good music, important music and literature was only available to a few people, the intellectuals. The intellectuals’ part was also characterised in the case of many punk bands the utilization of masterful writings and poetry by great Estonian poets and intellectuals. Realise that everything in those years came with a 10 year delay. So punk, known to the mass of Estonian people, actually broke at the very end of the 80s, not 70s. When Stalker was premiered in 1979 only a few knew about punk, but it really grew popular at the end of 80s with Glasnost, Perestroika and the fall of Berlin Wall. A time for freedom movements in all the Eastern European countries. That was the ideological metamorphosis of punk during the 80s in Former Soviet Union
Now we are standing next to a 3rd location for the filming. It was where they were in the landrover and the guards were shooting at them. It‘s a corridor a little street. They are about to open this a Stalker Street and preserve it as you can see it in the movie, this street has stayed this way since those days. It is well preserved. Here you get that déjà vu feeling.
What is the ending of the films significance and the daughter who as a result of Stalkers trips to the Zone manifests some strange abilities?
She has some supernatural powers, as she was born after her father had been visiting the Zone. Tarkovsky likes to play, the conditions during the making of the film were serious, it made a strong impact on him and his creation. It still is important to stress that all his films should not be taken so seriously. Like the bible it is not complete but an issue for interpretation. Look at it also from a humourous point, for example the scene with Tambet‘s mother takes off in the car, its mundane, normal but funny, Tarkovsky like to have fun. The genius of Tarkovsky is the great dialogue which not many people know how to write. What is said ,the soundtrack, the visual langauge and the extremely long takes. He is a magician in the way he transforms the camera shots, most of them are long, its miraculous. At one point you are here and even though you are looking at it with full awareness you still find yourself in a compeletely different situation but visually it doesn’t look very different from where you had been a minute ago. That’s why it is so much appreciated.
Who would like to thank for supporting and enabling this event to happen in the way which you have envisaged.
I would like to thank Aadam Kaarma, the graphic designer, who made all the wonderful artworks for us, and of course, Tiina Savi, one of the heads of cinema “Sõprus” and the producer for STALKER. Certainly, without the help of Aivar Tõnso, the Tallinn 2011′s coordinator and the Lord of Estonian adventurous music, we wouldn’t be doing this. In advance, I would most of all like to thank all the people who are going to be enjoying STALKER’s contemporary fairytales.
Get more info here: www.stalkertallinn.com
Is life too serious to be taken seriously? Favourite animal is a dog, called Harry the Lurcher. Now somewhere in space.
Aadam Kaarma Aivar Tõnso Andres Lõo Arvo Pärt Bela Tarr Blade Runner Chris Marker Citizen Kane Eduard Artemyev Faime Jürno Ilpo Väisänen Karmen Kass Kino Sõprus Kuulturi Katel Mart Taniel Mika Vainio Ökosaar PanSonic duo Paradjanov Peeter Laurits Planningtorock punk Roadside Picnic Strugatsky Tambet Tambet Jürno Tarkovsky Temnikova Kasela gallery The Stylophonic Orchestra of Eurasia Tiina Saavi Ülo Krigul Veiko Õunpuu