i did not get around to finishing it the second time--i watched disc one, got busy, haven't gotten around to disc 2 yet, which is currently sitting in my mac's disc drive--but i'll put my two cents in anyways. i'll probably have a few more organized, substantive thoughts once i see it in it's entirety again....
mebbe. but, just like for you, it would be difficult for me to concentrate on one particular theme. the movie has been simmering and brewing and lingering in my mind since i saw it first three years ago, and i feel its presence and its effect just as much as i did then, maybe more... it applies to a lot of things in life, actually to most things, if you approach it philosophically, more than any other movie i've seen.
well, how about i take your "simple answers" and just extrapolate on it a little bit...
desire.... do you mean general ambition? or the way it is used in the movie, the one single great thing you're living for, whatever it is... does such thing exist, anyway? what do you think?
"A man's work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened." (Albert Camus)
general ambition.... if you are meaning a goal with a defined beginning and end point, like an aspiration to be a doctor, or to acquire wealth, or a fulfilling monogamy, or any point you could reach, and lay back and think, "well i did it," then no, i don't believe so. though i am a little confused by your terminology. can't an ambition be the single great thing you're living for as it is, the way it is "used in the movie"? but if that faux endpoint, where you think you have fulfilled your desire, through 'general ambition' is what you mean by general ambition, then that is definitely not what i mean by desire. that cannot be the single greatest thing we live for, even if we think it is on a conscious level.
the most central desire we all have that consumes all of us is the desire to be happy. and in a way that is the singular desire we all want. any tangible goal will never be enough. the phd in medicine? the wedding ring? the bank account? okay, then what? what's next? the rest of your life... you don't die the moment you reach that point you've been striving towards. what's next is you keep living, doing the same stuff everyday, and if the progeny of that single ambition you reached does not keep you motivated and happy, then it is not your deepest desire! your deepest desire remains to be discovered... but this is all just a roundabout way of naming contentment as the ultimate desire. (on a side note, i use contentment and and happiness synonymously here, though i know they aren't synonyms. happiness is the product of contentment i think.... you feel good with what is present, then you are happy).
i don't see 'being happy' as an emotional state really. it's just whatever frame of mind we strive towards to get us through the day... if we are content with feeling like shit then that makes us happy. it is just the presence of contentment and satisfaction.
happiness.... this must be tied in with desire, right? or doesn't it? do you think happiness is an achievement or a process or an attitude? because, if we take the movie's premise, that one granted wish would result in happiness, which would mean it's an achievement... do you agree?
here's a real life account from krzysztof zanussi, related to this... "Hearing what Tarkovsky was saying about art, an artist's calling, man's purpose, a young man saw him as a guru (the need for gurus in America is very great) and inquired simple-heartedly: "Mr. Tarkovsky, what must I do to be happy?" This was quite an ordinary question by American standards, but for Andrei it was simply shocking. He interrupted the conversation and asked: "What does the man want? Why does he ask such foolish questions?" I tried to explain to Andrei that he was being too harsh to the boy, that he shouldn't be angry but should advise him. Andrei said: "How can I advise him? Doesn't he know what he's living for?" I said: "Imagine that he really doesn't know what he's living for and tell him something that is obvious to you." But Andrei shrugged his shoulders and said: "Let him ponder over what he has been called from non existence for, wherefore he exists, let him divine the role assigned to him in the cosmos, let him fulfill that role, and as to happiness it might come or not come." It was all quite clear to me, but it took the young man maybe ten minutes to recover from the shock, because the words he heard from Andrei were totally incomprehensible to him. It was difficult for him to understand, for example, the basic fact that existence in general could be a problem, i.e. that it did not go without saying, that a person should ponder over the meaning of his existence, that existence imposed an obligation on a person - for the pragmatic American mind these things were incomprehensible."
happiness is both! it depends on how you define achieved as well. if an achievement is a one time moment of satisfaction then that cannot be happiness though. if it is ongoing, then yes it can be. happiness is a continuous state.
that account is pretty much what i've been thinking. "the pragmatic american mind" sealed it, ie, get to this point, this concrete point, and you shall be a happy person. fulfillment=accomplishment, yaay! and thus, ridding the american mind of a burden to divine their own meaning, non-superficial and transcendent of anything physical, which brings nothing but a fickle "happiness" of sorts.
meaning.... of life/existence? well, where do you think one has to search for it? do you think the zone is a good place to do it? why (not)? those three weirdos think it might be...
actually, in our discussions, quinn remarked that the zone represents life, which is certainly true, and we talk more about that if you want.
but, on a less metaphorical level, it is also simply a place to get away from society, from norms, from laws, privileges, habits, inhibitions... to stop thinking about earning money and forget about familial and all other obligations... just so one remove himself from all these endless cycles, slow down and contemplate/reevaluate life... his life and existence in general.
life and existence, yes. within oneself, for most.
okay, my first viewing gave me the impression that the zone granted the innermost desire of whoever reached it. for porcupine this was wealth. but it seemed to imply that not all innermost desires are so shallow, which makes one's trip into the zone pretty perilous, depending on how in touch you are with yourself, hence where self-knowledge comes yes?
the back of my dvd case says tark provides no definitive answer to the questions it raises. this seems about right... your question: is the zone a good place for this? well i don't know. it is and it isn't. for porcupine it was... for a week.. then he realized he had nothing else to live for. such a 'pragmatic' desire must leave one empty. but not all have those desires... some deep down will want just to happy, surely? for those, for whom happiness is no achievement, but a continuous state of contentment, the zone does seem like a good place to venture to.
it's almost like the guy who asks the genie for a million dollars will get bored and become disillusioned by his wealth. the guy who asks the genie for a million wishes is the one who has a less pragmatic idea of happiness. with all of his wishes he asks for nothing too extravagant either. he asks for the small day to day pleasures that keep him moving and ticking, with some variety and surprise here and there; all of the little things, like hot coffee, a soft bed, a crossword puzzle, a good book... whatever.... for the rest of his life (because life is not a one stop train!) does that not sound much more fulfilling than a million bucks, one time and one time only?
--i feel like i'm repeating myself a lot, but i am trying to be thorough--
in that way tark does not provide an answer. your question is a trick one methinks--the zone may be beneficial, or may not be. basically, writer and professor both look for a means to an end from the zone while stalker is content with only making trips to the zone without ever going in, because he is afraid of what he will get. if he's happy with it, then he already has it. why mess it up?
the zone is like a test i'd say. if you're afraid of going in and messing shit up, like porcupine, then chances are you're already content with what you have, which is the ultimate allure of the zone anyways. if you get there and think shit i need to go in, then maybe you do need to reevaluate your life anyways. so i feel you.
here's an excerpt from tarkovsky's diary entry from 1977... i know it may seem strange without context, but i purposely omitted it:
"Man doesn't need society at all, it's society that needs him. Society is just our name for a tool for our self-preservation. Man, as opposed to herd animals, should live by himself, amidst nature, animals, plants - in contrast with them."
it's the last phrase that caught my attention... because while i agree with his sentiment and have for about a decade now, i've never managed to formulate it that way... in contrast... because we do live in contrast (can't help but), but with contrast to society/culture and in contrast with other people (absolutely nothing wrong with that in itself, except most urban deweller to that exclusively and thus live a life out of balance), and it is our conformity to its norms, rules and laws that generally determines our success within in... in that sense, we're acting like herd animals... whereas if we lived a more solitary life, "in contrast with animals, plants, [etc.]", our interactions with the world would be extremely different, as would be our opinions of ourselves, and of other people...
so, perhaps, if anything, that excursion into the zone just gave the men a chance to contemplate, to look at life from a different perspective, to reevaluate things... and that act, or rather process, while it may or may not necessarily make them "happier" or more satisfied or content with life, it will at least provide them with a new, more balanced, perhaps more healthy approach to things (and that will also make the society they live in better, as well).
finally, self-knowledge... is it not desires/happiness/meaning rolled into one?
or is there a duality here between knowledge of self ("subjective") and a more objective truth somewhere out there?
this exercise has been illuminating and tiring. excuse a short response here. i think i've touched upon everything i wanted to get to already. self-knowledge does seem such, to an extent. i have trouble with this duality a lot. i feel obligated to compromise with society, a more objective, pragmatic concept and initiative of happiness. doing so takes a huge load off... relieved of burden, of self-meaning, self-discovery. limit myself to a collective happiness that functions within a system, ie, i need society and not vice versa. it is a tempting fate. keeping an equilibrium between staying far enough away from that, and enduring the pains of a lonely, but more rewarding self-oriented conception of desire/happiness/meaning is the ideal state, imo. walking a tightrope sometimes. because on one hand you can't be so gone and lost in a generalized happiness because you lose all concept of self; you become the sightless pragmatic american, but a happiness that is entirely self sounds really fucking lonely and isolating. so again, compromise!
now i'm interested in what you think about a lot of this george.
PS: this is an interesting wave of kind, where several people at once are watching stalker... quinn and you have just finished watching it, drew has just rewatched it (i think), and pave and raul (and maybe led) are about to watch it... maybe other will, too.
i noticed it happens with some of my friends, particularly close ones, where independently we go through similar phases... it was never more pronounced when mrguitar and i were close friends, and our paths coincided to a degree where i just know it definitely was not a coincidence. but this is different. so maybe the mechanism is different, if there is one. but, in any case, it's a really interesting occurence and i'm really glad more people are discovering stalker/tarkovsky.
thanks for the time and response. it was a strong catalyst and helped me organize and work through a lot of my incoherent, floating thoughts.