While plenty of people have played S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, not many of them realise the game takes elements from both a book and a film. The book, Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, has been freely available online for a while now, but it's taken a little longer for Andrei Tarkovsky's film adaptation - Stalker - to make it onto the net.
Now, thanks to Film Annex, gamers who also like a bit of cinema can sit down and enjoy the movie which inspired the series of open-world sandbox titles.
Here's a brief excerpt from the film, so you know what you're getting in for:
Andrei Tarkovsky (1932-1986) was considered by many to be one of the greatest post-War Soviet film directors, with an influence carrying beyond the borders of his country. Akira Kurosawa acknowledged that "I love all of Tarkovsky’s films. I love his personality and all his works. Every cut from his films is a marvelous image in itself." Ingmar Bergman was also a fan: "Tarkovsky for me is the greatest [director], the one who invented a new language, true to the nature of film, as it captures life as a reflection, life as a dream".
Each of his seven feature films feature a distinctive cinematic style - metaphorical imagery combined with long takes, and some tortoise-like pacing - and many wrestle with themes touching on the spiritual and metaphysical.
Stalker is no exception - a meteorite fell to earth twenty years ago, obliterating a small Russian town. Villagers have travelled through the affected area - now known as The Zone - and have disappeared. Rumour has it that at the centre of The Zone, one will find The Room - a place that will grant your deepest wish. Predictably, the armed forces are threatened by the existence of such a resource, and have secured the area with barbed wire and armed guards.
...but the Stalkers can navigate through the constantly-changing traps, and one has been employed to guide an esteemed Writer and a Scientist as they travel through The Zone in search of inspiration, adventure and the Truth.
As they draw closer to The Room, it becomes obvious that the biggest obstacle is not the explosions, the army or the traps - but rather their uncertainty when faced with their deepest wish.
So! It's a bit different to what ended up being S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, but it's still a masterpiece of modern cinema. Grab the popcorn and get comfy in front of your computer - the film's about two hours long: Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker: Part 1 + Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker: Part 2 - and it comes with English subtitles in case your Russian's a little rusty.
(As always, if you like the film, you should buy a copy!)
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Jimmy the Geek