WOODY WEDNESDAY This film THE STALKER (made in 1979) reminded me of the Bergman films and those of Woody Allen!




This film THE STALKER (made in 1979) reminded me of the Bergman films and those of Woody Allen!

Andrei Tarkovsky Picture

The most famous Soviet film-maker since Sergei M. Eisenstein, Andrei Tarkovsky (the son of noted …Born: April 4, 1932  
Died: December 29, 1986  (age 54)

East-West Church & Ministry Report

Vol. 9, No. 3, Summer 2001, Covering the Former Soviet Union and Central and Eastern Europe

Tarkovsky’s The Stalker: A Christian Allegory Set in the “Evil Empire”

Gregory Halvorsen Schreck

Editor’s Note: For Professor Schreck’s previous article on “Andrei Tarkovsky: The Redemptive Vision of a Soviet Filmmaker” and two additional articles on spiritual insights in film as a witness to post-Soviet intellectuals, see East-West Church & Ministry Report 9 (Winter 2001), 8-13.

Andrei Tarkovsky’s last film made in the Soviet Union, The Stalker (1977), illustrates the difficulty of properly interpreting his work, and rightly understood, underscores his Christian perception of life and struggle. It is a strange movie, starkly conceived with spare images and a slow pace that can make the viewing experience excruciating. Based on the science-fiction novella A Roadside Picnic, the script approved by censors included a clear indictment of the United States and, seemingly, of capitalism. Yet the finished film, with obvious religious overtones, and with a protagonist who looks like a political prisoner right out of the Gulag, infuriated Soviet authorities. The Stalker turned out to be a condemnation of materialism, both East and West, and ultimately caused Tarkovsky to leave the Soviet Union to finish his career in exile.

A Filmmaker Working Out His Faith 
Tarkovsky said his films were “about one thing: the extreme manifestation of faith.” The Stalker seems to be especially close to the artist’s own life of faith. A close reading of Tarkovsky’s diary during its production makes it obvious that the filmmaker was working out his own faith in fear and trembling. He wrote, “The artist seeks to destroy the stability by which society lives, for the sake of drawing closer to the ideal. Society seeks stability, the artist, infinity.”

Near the center of the film, the Stalker recites the story from Luke’s Gospel in which two disciples meet Jesus on the road to Emmaus. This occurs in Luke’s narrative three days after Jesus died, on the day he rose from the dead. In the story, neither of the disciples recognizes Jesus when they see him, even though they had been intimate friends for years. In the film, when the Stalker finishes telling the Emmaus story, he asks, “Are you awake?” The question invites the characters and the viewer to reflect on the story. The viewer wonders why Jesus was unrecognized for so long by his disciples. Viewers may also wonder why they too miss Jesus repeatedly.

The Emmaus story suggests the limits of rational reasoning. The process of Christian faith may be aided to a point by patient searching and careful analysis. But ultimately, passion and true recognition are stirred by poetic ritual. The story demonstrates two ways of knowing, from the head and from the heart. Jesus chose to be known by his spiritual substance, rather than by his physical appearance. Like Jesus, Tarkovsky uses the temporal journey of The Stalker to guide the viewer toward sacred symbolism that speaks beyond the spectacle and purely intellectual recognition.

The Stalker was made in Estonia in a ruined, dreary, uninhabited landscape littered with dilapidated military machinery and hauntingly overgrown structures leaking water at every turn. This setting is referred to as “The Zone.” The characters, Writer (representing culture, the arts, emotions) and Professor (representing science, technology, rationalism) come here on a search from an unnamed city in a military industrial wasteland. It is said that in The Zone is a Room where all the desires of those who reach it are satisfied. It is carefully guarded by fences, watchtowers, and military police. Since The Zone is illegal, tricky, and unpredictable, travelers hire guides, called stalkers, to show them the way in and out. The Zone seems to be a region suffering from a nuclear accident, either military or industrial.

The Stalker is not a suspenseful adventure thriller. Packaged as science fiction, the film lacks the slick futuristic appearance one expects from that genre. In fact, it seems to be, rather, a contemporary allegory. This is undoubtedly one of the ambiguities in the film that infuriated Soviet film authorities. As the railroad car stops in The Zone, the film shifts from black and white to color. Three cruciform telephone poles fill the frame, symbolically marking the passage. The characters in The Stalker are approaching God with reverence and humility. To make this understood, the issue remains hidden. The timing of revelation is up to God. In this way God makes the most of the process. In the Emmaus story Jesus conceals his identity to make the most of his presence. The astonishment experienced by the disciples upon recognition deepens the meaning of their encounter. Tarkovsky mimics Jesus’ method here. Instead of quick, efficient movement, the approach is poetic and ritualized. The process in the film, like the process in the Emmaus story, becomes as important as the result. The danger of Writer’s direct approach is that discovery would be merely obvious. The outcome would be trite, even spectacular, but not vital. By contrast, the Stalker’s humble approach allows God to transform characters (and viewers) through the journey.

Near the center of the film the camera focuses on a dark pool of water at the bottom of a well where the Stalker says a prayer: 

May everything come true. May they believe. May they laugh at their passions. For that which they call passion is not really the energy of the soul, but merely friction between the soul and the outer world. But mostly may they have hope and may they become as helpless as children. For weakness is great and strength is worthless.

Faith Couched in Symbols
In the narrative water is symbolic of baptism, cleansing, birth, rebirth, and satisfied thirst. Tarkovsky photographs water and makes its substance present until it lives in a new way. The water alludes to the living water in the Gospel of John and is metaphorical on numerous levels. Under the water the viewer sees gold coins, a hypodermic needle, a rusted machine gun, and a painting of Christ by Jan Van Eyck from the Ghent altarpiece. The underwater objects symbolize the values of modern society: financial wealth, medicine (drugs, anesthesia), military strength (violence), and religion. The signs of worldly security come before the image Christ. However, the water has rendered them useless. The objects are out of circulation, worthless outside their human context. Moreover, the water breaks down even the machine gun’s steel over time and dissolves its substance. All these things will pass away. Tarkovsky connects certainty and security manifest in a definitive, somewhat closed logic, with hardness, with materialism. That which becomes hard is unreceptive to love, to faith, to spiritual realities, to God. The contrasting metaphor to hardness is water, that which is most yielding, most malleable, “softest.”

The soundtrack that overlays the water sequence provides more substance to its meaning. Spare electronic music plays as the voice of Monkey, the Stalker’s daughter, recites a text from Revelation 8:7-11:

The first angel blew his trumpet; and there came hail and fire mingled with blood, and this was hurled upon the earth. A third of the earth was burnt, a third of the trees were burnt, all the green grass was burnt.

The second angel blew his trumpet; and what looked like a great blazing mountain was hurled into the sea. A third of the sea was turned to blood, a third of the living creatures in it died, a third of the ships on it floundered.

The third angel blew his trumpet; and a great star shot from the sky, flaming like a torch; and it fell on a third of the rivers and springs. The name of the star was Wormwood; and a third of the water turned to wormwood, people in great numbers died of the water because it had been poisoned.

The Zone is, at best, the result of an environmental disaster no longer fit for human habitation. Its effects reach deep into the character of the future, mutating imminent possibilities for basic survival. This mutation is symbolized by the Stalker’s daughter, who was born without the capacity to walk as a result of her father’s exposure to The Zone. The text from Revelation, as used by Tarkovsky, hints at the possibility of nuclear disaster. Its coupling with the images of water and Wormwood suggests an unprecedented human perversion of divine metaphors: water has the possibility of losing its ability to nourish and cleanse because of human carelessness. The environmental disaster of The Zone reflects the shadow of an arrogant, blind faith in technology. For the first time the possibility exists for humanity to initiate an apocalypse preempting the natural, divine order.

The scene ends looking down at the water where a fish swims among three pieces of a bomb. Blood covers the surface and fills the frame. The blood and the fish, traditional symbols of Christ, define the room as a Christian space. The water of baptism covers the pieces of a nuclear bomb, offering redemption, even from the hopelessness that the weapon of destruction symbolizes. The Stalker’s wife comes to greet him, comfort him, and finally take him home. Her unconditional love in spite of numerous disappointments takes on a divine character by the end of the film. Like the father in the Prodigal Son narrative, she comes to accept her husband back, forgiving his many failures. This ultimately reflects the character of a loving God and becomes the ultimate divine metaphor in the film.

Gregory Halvorsen Schreck is associate professor of art, Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL.

Gregory Halvorsen Schreck, “Tarkovsky’s The Stalker: A Christian Allegory Set in the ‘Evil Empire’,” East-West Church & Ministry Report 9 (Summer 2001), 13-14.

Written permission is required for reprinting or electronic distribution of any portion of theEast-West Church & Ministry Report.

© 2001 East-West Church and Ministry Report 
ISSN 1069-5664

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Woody Allen On Bergman

Woody Allen On Bergman

Woody Allen Show

Essay on Woody Allen films

Match point Trailer

Match point

Crimes and misdemeanors

Part 2

Part 3

Woody commenting on Midnight in Paris

Midnight in Paris trailer

Letty Aronson, c/o New York, New York 10001

Dear Mrs. Aronson,

My teenage  son came to me the other day and told me he had discovered Igmar Bergman films and that he wanted me to watch them with him. I told  him about the influence that Bergman  had on Woody Allen and now I am going to start on series of posts on my blog that show just that.

I have posted so many reviews on Woody Allen’s latest movie CAFE SOCIETY . I know that Woody doesn’t care about reviews but just for your information some reviewers liked the film and the lavish surroundings in it and some did not.  A serious theme of the afterlife is brought up in this film too. The review of CAFE SOCIETY by A.O. Scott has best line in film: “I accept death, but under protest,” Dad says. “Protest to who?” Mom responds!

Woody Allen got this idea from one of favorite Ingmar Bergman’s movies THE SEVENTH SEAL.

Woody Allen once said:

I’ve made perfectly decent films, but not  (1963), not The Seventh Seal (1957) (“The Seventh Seal”), The 400 Blows (1959) (“The 400 Blows”) or L’avventura (1960) – ones that to me really proclaim cinema as art, on the highest level. If I was the teacher, I’d give myself a B.

Andrew Welch commented on some of Woody Allen’s influences in his article Looking at the (sometimes skewed) morality of Woody Allen’s best films:

In the late ’60s, Woody Allen left the world of stand-up comedy behind for the movies. Since then, he’s become one of American cinema’s most celebrated filmmakers. Sure, he’s had his stinkers and his private life hasn’t been without controversy. But he’s also crafted some of Hollywood’s most thought-provoking comedies. Philosophical, self-deprecating and always more than a tad pessimistic, Allen adds another title to his oeuvre this Friday with Midnight in Paris. Whether it will be remembered as one of his greatest or another flop is too early to say, but its release gives us a chance to look back at some of his most indispensable works.

Love and Death (1975)

Allen’s Love and Death owes a lot to Tolstoy’s War and Peace and the films of Swedish director Ingmar Bergman. Death himself even makes an appearance, recalling the existential dread of Bergman’s The Seventh Seal. But despite the movie’s many highbrow allusions, Allen is more concerned with simply having a good time. Gags and one-liners abound, making it, if not a comic masterpiece, a pretty good way to spend an hour and a half.

I ran across this article below recently about Billy Graham and Woody Allen conversation concerning sex (which is on You Tube also) and I thought I would share it along with a few words from Adrian Rogers who was my pastor when I was growing up:

A Look at the Long Forgotten Woody Allen Special, with Guest Star Rev. Billy Graham


The Paley Center for Media, which has locations in both New York and LA, dedicates itself to the preservation of television and radio history. Inside their vast archives of more than 120,000 television shows, commercials, and radio programs, there are thousands of important and funny programs waiting to be rediscovered by comedy nerds like you and me. Each week, this column will highlight a new gem waiting for you at the Paley Library to quietly laugh at. (Seriously, it’s a library, so keep it down.)

1969 was a big year for Woody Allen. He had just written, directed and starred in the movie Take the Money and Run, he was appearing on Broadway in a play he wrote entitled Play it Again, Sam and to top it all off, on September 21, on CBS, America was treated to The Woody Allen Special, a one-time only oddity that hasn’t been seen since. A very strange combination of elements, The Woody Allen Special was a variety show in every sense of the word.

It opened with Woody doing a stand-up monologue (in which he manages to plug both of his previously mentioned specials). In it, Woody hits all of the topics that we now know him for. Sex and death (“both only come once in my lifetime”), his mother, (“I asked how do I get babies? She thought I said rabies. So, I was bit by a dog”) and cowardice (it’s far too long to quote, but he tells a great story about hiding in the closet from robbers, which turns out to be the TV on in the other room.)

…But in case you don’t want to watch the whole thing, it’s a very respectful conversation between two people who greatly disagree with one another, but are open to listening to what the other person has to say. And I don’t care what it says about me, I think it’s hilarious to hear Woody, in front of one of the most famous religious figures of his day, say that not having premarital sex is like “getting a driver’s license without a learner’s permit.” Or when Woody says that he doesn’t use any type of drug and Graham admits to drinking coffee and says he need’s Woody’s help, Allen can’t resist responding “Yes, if you have faith in me, I will lead you.” It’s one of the strangest pairings in all of television and it makes for some really compelling watching.


WOODY ALLEN: Are there any questions?

MEMBER OF THE AUDIENCE: Mr. Graham I read that you don’t believe in premarital sexual relations. Is this true?

BILLY GRAHAM: It is not a matter of what I believe. It is what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches that premarital sexual relations are wrong.

WOODY ALLEN: To me that would be like getting a driver’s license without a learner’s permit first.

BILLY GRAHAM: Let us just see. We have to have rules to live by. What we saying is that we are going to play a baseball game without any rules. We are going to live a moral life without any rules. Well God has laid down certain rules and said if you want the best of life and you want complete happiness and fulfillment then live by these rules. And one of those rules is THOU SHALT NOT COMMIT IMMORALITY.

WOODY ALLEN: Ah but what a minute. Say you are dating a girl, right?

BILLY GRAHAM: Well I don’t intend to date anymore. Let’s choose you.

WOODY ALLEN: Let’s say I am dating a girl and I am going to marry her. She has begged me to marry her. This was after a while or it is even more interesting if I am forced to marry her, but now don’t I want to get some idea of the territory?

BILLY GRAHAM: You see that most sociologists today and most psychologist today would agree with the Bible that there are very serious problems involved. God did not say THOU SHALT NOT COMMIT IMMORALITY BEFORE MARRIAGE  in order to keep you from having a good time or to keep you from having fun.

WOODY ALLEN: Yes he did.

BILLY GRAHAM: He said that to protect you. He said that to protect you psychologically. To protect your body. Today venereal disease is at an all time high and illegitimacy is at an all time high despite of all of our medical science. And in all of these God says I want to make you happy. I want to help you and I have given you some rules to live by and this is the rule.

WOODY ALLEN: Let’s say that I  do marry the girl and I finally get to investigate her carnally and it turns out that she is an absolute YO YO.

BILLY GRAHAM: Well, I don’t think that will happen to you. That is a hypothetical question.

In 1984 Adrian Rogers said in sermon, “Playboy’s Payday,” these words:

(The text for this sermon was the whole chapter of Proverbs 5)

In Sweden, Sweden’s a liberated country, they have open pornography, open prostitution, free love in Sweden.  It’s all accepted. That’s supposed to be the liberated country in the Western world.  The Swedes! Do you know what nation has the highest divorce rate of any nation?  Sweden. .  “God is not mocked.”  I’m telling you there is a disappointment in sin.  The cup of sin is sweet, but the dregs are bitter indeed.

They did an in-depth study at Stanford University. These are not a bunch of preachers, and their conclusion of the in-depth study was this:  that the more promiscuous people were before marriage, the less chance for happiness after marriage.   The try-it-before-you-marry-it idea may sound cute, but it’s not in the Word of God, dear friend.  This idea of living together to see if you’re compatible, the more promiscuous people were before marriage, the less chance of opportunity for satisfaction after marriage. Young people, many of them right now are on the beaches of Fort Lauderdale, many of them have gone down there attempting to make it with some girl, to make it with some boy, to jump in bed with somebody. They think that’s the way.   And our young people are being told that so much that they think there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it!


Everette Hatcher


The mass media turned Picasso into a celebrity, and the public deprived him of privacy and wanted to know his every step, but his later art was given very little attention and was regarded as no more than the hobby of an aging genius who could do nothing but talk about himself in his pictures. Picasso’s late works are an expression of his final refusal to fit into categories. He did whatever he wanted in art and did not arouse a word of criticism.

With his adaptation of “Las Meninas” by Velászquez and his experiments with Manet’s Luncheon on the Grass, was Picasso still trying to discover something new, or was he just laughing at the public, its stupidity and its inability to see the obvious.

A number of elements had become characteristic in his art of this period: Picasso’s use of simplified imagery, the way he let the unpainted canvas shine through, his emphatic use of lines, and the vagueness of the subject. In 1956, the artist would comment, referring to some schoolchildren: “When I was as old as these children, I could draw like Raphael, but it took me a lifetime to learn to draw like them.”

In the last years of his life, painting became an obsession with Picasso, and he would date each picture with absolute precision, thus creating a vast amount of similar paintings — as if attempting to crystallize individual moments of time, but knowing that, in the end, everything would be in vain.

The movie MIDNIGHT IN PARIS offers many of the same themes we see in Ecclesiastes. The second post looked at the question: WAS THERE EVER A GOLDEN AGE AND DID THE MOST TALENTED UNIVERSAL MEN OF THAT TIME FIND TRUE SATISFACTION DURING IT?

In the third post in this series we discover in Ecclesiastes that man UNDER THE SUN finds himself caught in the never ending cycle of birth and death. The SURREALISTS make a leap into the area of nonreason in order to get out of this cycle and that is why the scene in MIDNIGHT IN PARIS with Salvador Dali, Man Ray, and Luis Bunuel works so well!!!! These surrealists look to the area of their dreams to find a meaning for their lives and their break with reality is  only because they know that they can’t find a rational meaning in life without God in the picture.

The fourth post looks at the solution of WINE, WOMEN AND SONG and the fifth and sixth posts look at the solution T.S.Eliotfound in the Christian Faith and how he left his fragmented message of pessimism behind. In the seventh post the SURREALISTS say that time and chance is all we have but how can that explain love or art and the hunger for God? The eighth  post looks at the subject of DEATH both in Ecclesiastes and MIDNIGHT IN PARIS. In the ninth post we look at the nihilistic worldview of Woody Allen and why he keeps putting suicides into his films.

In the tenth post I show how Woody Allen pokes fun at the brilliant thinkers of this world and how King Solomon did the same thing 3000 years ago. In the eleventh post I point out how many of Woody Allen’s liberal political views come a lack of understanding of the sinful nature of man and where it originated. In the twelfth post I look at the mannishness of man and vacuum in his heart that can only be satisfied by a relationship with God.

In the thirteenth post we look at the life of Ernest Hemingway as pictured in MIDNIGHT AND PARIS and relate it to the change of outlook he had on life as the years passed. In the fourteenth post we look at Hemingway’s idea of Paris being a movable  feast. The fifteenth and sixteenth posts both compare Hemingway’s statement, “Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know…”  with Ecclesiastes 2:18 “For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.” The seventeenth post looks at these words Woody Allen put into Hemingway’s mouth,  “We fear death because we feel that we haven’t loved well enough or loved at all.”

In MIDNIGHT IN PARIS Hemingway and Gil Pender talk about their literary idol Mark Twain and the eighteenth post is summed up nicely by Kris Hemphill‘swords, “Both Twain and [King Solomon in the Book of Ecclesiastes] voice questions our souls long to have answered: Where does one find enduring meaning, life purpose, and sustainable joy, and why do so few seem to find it? The nineteenth post looks at the tension felt both in the life of Gil Pender (written by Woody Allen) in the movie MIDNIGHT IN PARIS and in Mark Twain’s life and that is when an atheist says he wants to scoff at the idea THAT WE WERE PUT HERE FOR A PURPOSE but he must stay face the reality of  Ecclesiastes 3:11 that says “God has planted eternity in the heart of men…” and  THAT CHANGES EVERYTHING! Therefore, the secular view that there is no such thing as love or purpose looks implausible. The twentieth post examines how Mark Twain discovered just like King Solomon in the Book of Ecclesiastes that there is no explanation  for the suffering and injustice that occurs in life UNDER THE SUN. Solomon actually brought God back into the picture in the last chapter and he looked  ABOVE THE SUN for the books to be balanced and for the tears to be wiped away.

The twenty-first post looks at the words of King Solomon, Woody Allen and Mark Twain that without God in the picture our lives UNDER THE SUN will accomplish nothing that lasts. Thetwenty-second post looks at King Solomon’s experiment 3000 years that proved that luxuries can’t bring satisfaction to one’s life but we have seen this proven over and over through the ages. Mark Twain lampooned the rich in his book “The Gilded Age” and he discussed  get rich quick fever, but Sam Clemens loved money and the comfort and luxuries it could buy. Likewise Scott Fitzgerald  was very successful in the 1920’s after his publication of THE GREAT GATSBY and lived a lavish lifestyle until his death in 1940 as a result of alcoholism.

In the twenty-third post we look at Mark Twain’s statement that people should either commit suicide or stay drunk if they are “demonstrably wise” and want to “keep their reasoning faculties.” We actually see this play out in the film MIDNIGHT IN PARIS with the character Zelda Fitzgerald. In the twenty-fourthtwenty-fifth and twenty-sixth posts I look at Mark Twain and the issue of racism. In MIDNIGHT IN PARIS we see the difference between the attitudes concerning race in 1925 Paris and the rest of the world.

The twenty-seventh and twenty-eighth posts are summing up Mark Twain. In the 29th post we ask did MIDNIGHT IN PARIS accurately portray Hemingway’s personality and outlook on life? and in the 30th post the life and views of Hemingway are summed up.

In the 31st post we will observe that just like Solomon Picasso slept with many women. Solomon actually slept with  over 1000 women ( Eccl 2:8, I Kings 11:3), and both men ended their lives bitter against all women and in the 32nd post we look at what happened to these former lovers of Picasso. In the 33rd post we see that Picasso  deliberately painted his secular  worldview of fragmentation on his canvas but he could not live with the loss of humanness and he reverted back at crucial points and painted those he loved with all his genius and with all their humanness!!! In the 34th post  we notice that both Solomon in Ecclesiastes and Picasso in his painting had an obsession with the issue of their impending death!!!


Related posts:


December 23, 2015 – 4:15 am

Woody Allen believes that we live in a cold, violent and meaningless universe and it seems that his main character (Gil Pender, played by Owen Wilson) in the movie MIDNIGHT IN PARIS shares that view. Pender’s meeting with the Surrealists is by far the best scene in the movie because they are ones who can […]


December 16, 2015 – 4:56 am

In the last post I pointed out how King Solomon in Ecclesiastes painted a dismal situation for modern man in life UNDER THE SUN  and that Bertrand Russell, and T.S. Eliot and  other modern writers had agreed with Solomon’s view. However, T.S. Eliot had found a solution to this problem and put his faith in […]


December 9, 2015 – 4:41 am

In MIDNIGHT IN PARIS Gil Pender ponders the advice he gets from his literary heroes from the 1920’s. King Solomon in Ecclesiastes painted a dismal situation for modern man in life UNDER THE SUN  and many modern artists, poets, and philosophers have agreed. In the 1920’s T.S.Eliot and his  house guest Bertrand Russell were two of […]

“Woody Wednesda

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