The text below was saved to my hard drive shortly after watching Andrei Tarkovsky's 1979 masterpiece at The National Gallery of Art back in 2007. As an intial insight into the work of this Russian giant, I think my writing falls somewhere in the ballpark of just adequate. Additional viewings would certainly aid in enriching my perspective into this director's unique and sprawling genius. Get cracking, right?
The scene in the bar that indicates the return of the three men is quite important. Without the presence of the dog, it would be difficult initially to tell if they had actually ever left for the Zone. But they did go, and in the resulting dialogue between the men and the Stalker's wife, there hangs a feeling that little or nothing has changed, that in spite of the surreal atmosphere and science-fictive events the men experienced on their journey, they were still the men they were before. There is no longer any doubt about the trip to the zone; they were there and felt all of its strangeness and pressures. But the return is quite melancholy, and in the subsequent scenes it's hard to shake off the lingering impression that in this particular cinematic world, engagement with the fantastic may be thrilling (and taxing), but doesn't give much of lasting value to the character's lives. The Stalker's despondency over the perceived futility of the trip only heightens this feeling.
The innocence and alien-ness of one child shows what we can, what we should, hope and strive for.