Recently, I’ve watched the “Stalker” again, the 1979 cult movie of the cult Russian director Tarkovsky. The screenplay has been written by the most influential russian science fiction authors Boris and Arkady Strugatsky, based on their “Roadside Picnic”.

In the movie, there is the Zone, an area full of strange and dangerous natural effects that cannot be explained by modern human science. It has suddenly appeared in some european country, and nobody knows the reason. Rumors are that there is something inside the Zone that can grant any wish. Police forces prohibit access to the Zone, probably for public safety reasons, which of course makes the rumors only stronger.

There are two persons who want to enter the Zone and find this place. They hire a guide who is said to be knowledgeable about of Zone and has been there several times. In the movie, they call such guides stalkers.

The modern, most common meaning of this word (i.e. a person breaking the privacy and intimidating a celebrity or another person) was unknown to me until I’ve emigrated to Germany. There is no native word for “stalker” (and neither for “stalking”) in Russian, so the English words are used nowadays. 

But back in 1979, when Strugatskys have used this word for their character, stalking as a phenomenon was unknown in the USSR.  I think, Strugatskys have used it not only because of its then-meaning (something like hooligan, outlaw), but also because of its cool sci-fi-ish sounds (Blaster, Laser, Stalker, Trooper, …). So until today, stalker has a second meaning in the ex-USSR area, for persons, who risk their lives entering to dangerous and mystic Zones.

Modern stalkers have a psychological disorder, erotomania, which makes them to believe their focus person shows signs of love to them, while in reality the person’s behaviour is a normal friendly one. When they approach the person and obtain the negative response, it conflicts with their inner beliefs. So they conceive a theory allowing to explain why their focus person must hide her love to the stalker. They continue approaching the person, trying to liberate the “love”, but in effect can only harass her.

Ironically, the Stalker in the movie has the very same problem. It is only his belief, his personal delusion, that a particular room in the Zone can grant wishes. It is he who is the source of all rumors about the Zone. When asked, he cannot point to any person whose wishes where ever granted. He explains that the wishes was never granted, because they weren’t really deep and true ones. But the two persons who he has safely guided though the dangerous Zone to the room do not believe him and leave the Zone, without even trying to wish anything.

What a sad final of a great movie.