THE MYSTERY OF THE GLASS IN TARKOVSKY'S STALKER

Comparing Also Tarkovsky's Use of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" with Kubrick's Use of the Same in A Clockwork Orange

At the beginning of Tarkovsky's Stalker, we see, next the family's bed, what seems an ordinary event. The assumption is that, in this scene, a glass is shaken across a chair, that serves as a bedside table, by a passing train. Then at the end of the film we again hear the train and see several objects travel a long way across a table as the daughter of The Stalker watches. After this, the girl's head resting on the table feels the ferocious power of the train as it reaches her, shaking her environment, and we briefly hear also Beethoven's "Ode to Joy". Some think of this as an "open" ending, and that it is a matter of perception as to whether the girl, a "mutant" daughter of The Stalker, is exhibiting telekinetic powers, or if the glassware, as at the film's beginning, has simply been powered across the table again by the shaking train. Tarkovsky's intention that this be telekinetic is, however, known. So why does he complicate and add ambiguity by means of the train? After the area we have traversed in the film, and what we have learned about The Stalker, I would propose that the ending demands we take another look at the beginning and realize the unlikelihood of the passing train causing only the glass to move across the bedside chair while every other object--apple, metal box, pills, syringe, crumpled paper, cotton--remains fixed. We need to reevaluate and consider the pan from the jittering chair over the bed in which we see the wife, the sleeping daughter, and The Stalker. The Stalker is not sleeping but seems to stare over at the chair as the glass moves across it, and as we pan back we see the wife is also now awake and vaguely watching. The action at the end should make us return and question this beginning and what we believed we had seen.

The opening scene of the bedroom, and the closing one of the child at the table, bookend a film that is otherwise concerned with a journey into a place called The Zone. The Zone is a forbidden territory ruled by a mysterious Other (or after-effects of this Other) and through which The Stalker, much as a psychopomp, illegally guides a few--only the despairing and not all surviving its dangers--in their quest to reach The Room where their deepest desires will be fulfilled and they will presumably be made happy, though not immediately, as the consequence of these desires being met is not instantaneous. The Stalker has only known, it seems, the fate of a single individual whose deepest desires came true, after which the individual killed himself. That man was a former zone guide who trained The Stalker. It seems that unwritten rules mandate no zone guide is to enter The Room, so the viewer is even uncertain how his trespass and violation affected the experience of the zone guide who did what no zone guide should do.

It is known that Stalkers have mutant children, and if one considers the implications of this it means that the guides, without entering The Room, are themselves affected by The Zone and pass this along to their offspring. Or it may even be that those (or some of those) who act as guides are such because they are already of a peculiar nature, one of "god's fools" as The Stalker's wife says.

The movie is intended to awaken the viewer to the knowledge that the terrain beyond their conscious mind is largely closed to them, and that it is there where their deepest desire smolders. This same problem of the unconscious was also addressed in Solaris, the planet itself a form of intelligence that brought to life memories, not just real people and events but passing thoughts that are fictional, might appear out of nowhere and recede into darkness again. What was horrible is that these thoughts could be murderous, grotesque, and one was unable to control what manifested and became a living thing with which one had to live. In The Stalker, The Zone acts a little like Solaris. In each film, an individual commits suicide, unable to tolerate what has manifested out of the unconscious. Because an individual can never be confident that they know what their deepest desire might be, The Zone is forbidden due the fear of what would happen if one whose deepest desire was evil, even destructive for all. This is pertinent to the end, for the somber daughter reads a poem on desire before she concentrates on the moving glassware, then, her head on the table, feels the train passing as Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" plays.

If we return to the beginning scene of the glass moving across the bedside chair, what do we hear within the heavy, grinding sound of the train? Almost indiscernibly, there too we hear Beethoven's 9th Symphony, which connects the beginning to the end musically.

Solaris was, in some few respects, a response to Kubrick's 2001. And I wonder about Tarkovsky's use of "Ode to Joy" in a movie about desire. Had he seen Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange? For Kubrick used "Ode to Joy" in A Clockwork Orange, Alex's passion for Beethoven's music serving as a revelation that what inspired in Alex a joyful spirit was different from what is normally conceived. For him, violence is joy. As Alex sleeps, the severe countenance of Beethoven, printed on his window shade, looks over him, and breathes with the breeze, alive and reminding of the biblical statement that the Holy Spirit blows as it pleases, that one may hear it but not know from where it comes and where it is going.

There is no inherent, moral character to the music that inspires Alex, though he conceives the music as being like "Bog" that inspires others.

In Tarkovsky's The Mirror, toward the beginning we see the dramatic movement of an inexplicable wind. This unlikely wind is periodically repeated in the film, and then at one point, as the wind blows and knocks items off a table, a voice-over speaks of the mysterious nature of soul, that is nude without the body, neither good nor bad, incapable of action. As the wind dies down we hear a train whistle. That wind, too, is the power of spirit, which one may hazard The Stalker's daughter possesses the ability to direct. The wind that knocks items off a table, conjoined with the train whistle, is the same as the daughter moving glassware across the table before the train pasees and "Ode to Joy" plays. It is the same as the music, which is as wind, that inspires Alex and finds direction in him, his desire being not only violent but even apocalyptic.

The girl is called Monkey in the book, Roadside Picnic, upon which The Stalker is based, because she has fur on her body, and as time passes she becomes more animalistic and less conversant. Tarkovsky instead has the child's mutancy rendering her unable to walk, and rather than animalistic we have what seems a largely passive character, her interior thoughts unexpressed. She may even be mute for she doesn't converse with the others.

The third of the four sections of which the book is composed addresses our conceptions of the "animal" and alien, the flawed assumption that an alien race would be what we comprehend as psychologically human. When it is argued that to be "human" is to be intelligent, the return argument is the question of what is intelligence.

We usually proceed from a trivial definition: intelligence is the attribute of man that separates his activity from that of the animals. It's a kind of attempt to distinguish the master from his dog, who seems to understand everything but can't speak. However, this trivial definition does lead to wittier ones. They are based on depressing observations of the aforementioned human activity. For example, intelligence is the ability of a living creature to perform pointless or unnatural acts...here's another definition--a very lofty and noble one. Intelligence is the ability to harness the powers of the surrounding world without destroying the said world.

The idea that intelligence may be the ability to harness the powers of the surrounding world, without destroying it, has everything to do with Monkey, her transformation into an "animal" as she grows older, her increasing inability to communicate, and the conclusion of the novel, which is very different from the film.

At the end of the novel there is no glassware that Monkey moves across a table. I've read that Tarkovsky, fascinated with telekinesis, conceived the idea of the moving glassware upon watching a film of Nina Kalugina that was purported to show her exercising psychokinesis. But there is perhaps a source for this glass in the book. In the novel, The Zone also causes those buried in proximity to it to rise from their graves and blindly return to their homes. The book is unclear on their nature, but these zombies appear to have no consciousness other than this homing instinct and are perfunctorily gathered up like dead wood, by the authorities, and discarded. The Stalker's father has also risen from the grave and returned home, but The Stalker keeps him there and respectfully treats him as one alive and conscious for he can't bear to have his father, whatever he may now be, treated as only material waste. In an episode with a guest to the home, when The Stalker pours drinks for the guest and himself, he also sets one on the table for the zombie. The guest knows the father will not respond to this gesture, is unable to respond, and doesn't expect him to respond. But The Stalker persists in acting as if his father will respond eventually. Then Monkey comes into the room, rests against the zombie, and after a little while the dead father, like a puppet, picks up the glass and drinks. Whether or not this movement is caused by Monkey is not addressed in the book, but one has to wonder if she is the cause, fulfilling her father's desire, and if such was also Tarkovsky's interpretation. Monkey is the psychokinetic puppet-master in this case, rather than the dead father eventually drinking out of the same blind habit that drew him home from the grave. This act is our final look at Monkey in the book. She doesn't appear in the final section.

The devastating end of the novel does have The Stalker entering, in effect, The Room, only there is no room, instead it is a golden sphere that is confronted, which is said to grant one's deepest desires. But how does one know if it really works?

I'm an animal, you can see that I'm an animal. I have no words, they haven't taught me the words; I don't know how to think, those bastards didn't let me learn how to think. But if you really are--all powerful, all knowing, all understanding--figure it out! Look into my soul, I know--everything you need is in there. It has to be. Because I've never sold my soul to anyone! It's mine, it's human! Figure out yourself what I want--because I know it can't be bad! The hell with it all, I just can't think of a thing other than those words of his--HAPPINESS, FREE, FOR EVERYONE, AND LET NO ONE BE FORGOTTEN!

There this brilliant novel ends on The Stalker's prayer to the golden sphere. Does the golden sphere grant wishes? If it does, what might The Stalker's wish mean for humanity and the world? How does it feel for the reader to have The Stalker's wish be this one after knowing what he has just done in order to reach the sphere?

The Stalker had been commissioned to go in and bring out the sphere by another stalker who is an abhorrent human being, who would use the sphere selfishly. This other stalker had long purported the existence of this object that would fulfill wishes, and no one has known if it was true or a tall tale, but he has a daughter of rare beauty and a wonderful and talented son, and The Stalker seems to attribute these wonderful children to a possible experience with the sphere. The other stalker having been deprived of the use of his legs by an accident in The Zone, sends The Stalker in to seek out and retrieve the sphere, with the hope he can use it to restore his heath, his insistence on the venture adding weight to the possibility of the sphere possessing such power. The other man's son begs The Stalker to let him go with him because he also has a wish he wants to make. The very, very young man, in college, is the moral opposite of his father. He's the kind of good kid who makes your heart ache with his trust, and he has absolute faith in The Stalker, trusting him implicitly, knowing he is not like his father, even though The Stalker is bitter. Bitter over Monkey. Bitter over having been used by the world. He is not the Christ-like figure as in the book. The boy doesn't know how much pain and hatred The Stalker bears.

The Stalker brings along the boy, but with the secret intention that he serve as a sacrifice, for in order for anyone to reach the golden sphere, The Stalker knows that guarding it is the Meatgrinder that must first be disabled. The only way to disable the Meatgrinder is to send a person into it, after which another may pass through unharmed. The Stalker knows the youth will die in the Meatgrinder. He imagines, anyway, that the wish the youth is so desperate to make must be something selfish, as the boy is too embarrassed to say what it is. He helps the boy through, one after another, the physical horrors of The Zone, the boy's trust and gratitude ever increasing with The Stalker preserving his life. Finally, they reach where the golden sphere is, but there is as yet the Meatgrinder guardian to be subdued, of which the boy knows nothing. Dancing joyously and solemnly toward the sphere, ecstatic, in the moment before the Meatgrinder kills him, the youth shouts out, "Happiness for everyone! Free! As much happiness as you want! Everyone gather round! Plenty for everyone! No one will be forgotten! Free! Happiness! Free!" But the Meatgrinder kills the boy before he attains the sphere, and The Stalker had known this would happen and allowed the boy to serve as fodder. The road now open for him to reach the sphere, as he considers his own wish, organizing his thoughts for it, The Stalker begins to wonder what it really means to think.

No, this isn't quite the same stalker as presented in the film. Tarkovsky retained The Zone from the book, and he transformed the sphere into The Room, but in the film The Stalker doesn't enter The Room as zone guides aren't supposed to enter it. Tarkovsky removes the terrible and powerful element of The Stalker's sacrifice of the trusting boy who wishes only for happiness and freedom from want for everyone.

In the novel, as it turns out, that sacrifice having been made, when The Stalker has his opportunity to make his plea with the golden sphere, he can finally think of nothing to ask for but what the boy had wished. The novel ends there, the reader having no idea if the golden sphere does indeed fulfill wishes and what the fulfilling of this wish might entail.

It is a genius and harrowing ending, but for some reason it's an ending that Tarkovsky doesn't pursue. Though a version of the Meatgrinder is in the movie, the one who goes through it, the writer, is ostensibly selected by fate, by lots, though he feels that he was guided to choose his lot when afterward he learns how dangerous it was and that many don't survive. For him, the Meatgrinder is the challenge of The Zone seeming to have nothing to do with facts and truth. What good is knowledge? He also experiences despair over his utility in life, over how he had hoped to help others with his writing but that hadn't happened, it was all for nothing as he was remade in the image of the reader, and after he dies he will simply be replaced by another author who will likewise be gobbled up and nothing learned. The Stalker tells him how lucky he is to have lived through the Meatgrinder, and relates how the other zone guide, the one who had gone into The Room and later committed suicide, had sent his own brother to die in the Meatgrinder, a delicate and talented boy. He recites a poem by the boy, one by Tarkovsky's own father.

Now summer is gone.
And might never have been.
In the sunshine it’s warm.
But there has to be more.

It all came to pass,
All fell into my hands
Like a five-petalled leaf,
But there has to be more.

Nothing evil was lost,
Nothing good was in vain,
All ablaze with clear light
But there has to be more.

Life gathered me up
Safe under its wing,
My luck always held,
But there has to be more.

Not a leaf was burnt up
Not a twig ever snapped
Clean as glass is the day,
But there has to be more.

This boy's luck hadn't held in the Meatgrinder.

We should turn to two conversations earlier in Tarkovsy's film. This same writer, about to enter The Zone, explains to a woman that boring iron laws control the world and forbid the paranormal. The rules can't be broken. Toward the film's end, exhausted by his most recent trip into The Zone, The Stalker grieves that writers and scientists don't believe, that no one believes, and so there is no one to lead to The Room. The world doesn't need it any longer. As The Room is no longer needed, neither is he. He has outlived his utility. Though not in The Zone, in a sense he undergoes the same ordeal of the Meatgrinder.

Life outside The Zone is sepia in this film, while in The Zone it is color, but these delineating rules imposed by Tarkovsky are broken several significant times.

The question isn't whether or not the girl moves the glassware telepathically. She does. But this is a metaphor for belief that surpasses the prison of the accepted iron laws of nature, which is also the mechanical world of the Clockwork Orange ruled by a god that on Judgment Day feasts on the juice of predestined fruit of mechanical law. This belief in spirit that slips through the iron bars of law is the world of The Zone and is perhaps the reason for which the final scene with the girl is in color, as was the area of The Zone in color. There is also another scene that is in color. The girl is unable to walk, reliant on crutches, yet toward the end of the film we have such a long shot of only her head and shoulders moving in the manner of one walking, that one might begin to believe she is walking despite what we know about her legs. This too is in color. Then the camera zooms out and we see that she is instead riding on her father's shoulders, which we can look upon as signifying her "mutant" inheritance of the spirit resident in The Zone through her father's contact with it, and, as I've noted, the father even perhaps being himself partly responsible for the functioning of The Zone. By means of the mutant child, The Zone escapes its geographic bounds.

These color scenes outside The Zone reveal the scarf the girl wears over her head is a light golden brown, which may remind of the golden sphere that Tarkovsky has transformed into The Room. It is also right there, in the child.

The "animal" nature of the child, as with the book, Tarkovsky represents with her withdrawn disposition, but he also shows she is intelligent with her reading poetry before she moves the glassware. If the child in the book becomes more and more animal, seeming unable to communicate, her having perhaps animated the zombie, so he drinks from the glass is an intelligent manipulation of the world, is communication, as well as a fulfilment of her father's wishes. If it isn't a sensible communication to us, then we are in the same position as the scientists in Solaris attempting to communicate with the intelligence that is Solaris. An impasse doesn't mean that the girl doesn't possess intelligence.

One might wonder what of the role of The Stalker's wife? She complains, at the film's beginning, that The Stalker has taken her watch, which is how she suspects he will be serving as guide into The Zone again that day, which isn't in the book. At the film's end she speaks directly to the camera, saying that she had been warned by her mother not to marry a stalker, and that she knew how they were and what kind of children they had, but he said, "Come with me," and she had. In The Stalker's beckoning, "Come with me" we may hear an echo of Matthew 4:19 in which Christ says, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Throughout the film one has an increasing sense of The Stalker as a Christ-like figure, he at one point wearing a crown of thorns. Tarkovsky embodies the tribulations of a companion to such in the wife who says she has no regrets and has envied no one else. She knew that life with a stalker would have a great deal of suffering but in suffering there was hope and how can there be happiness without suffering. It would seem that the wife, as the one with the watch, represents the physical laws of the universe living in union with the renegade spirit. It is after The Stalker bemoans to her there is no one else to take to The Room that she voices her experience directly to the the camera, the viewer. She had offered to go, saying she has things for which to ask, but The Stalker denied her, responding what if she also showed a lack of faith.

Or what if The Stalker instead fears what might be her innermost desires of which she may be unaware? At the movie's beginning, instead of saying she never has had regrets, the wife had instead damned the day she met The Stalker, and said God had cursed them both with the child they were given. She had fallen to the floor in spasms of grief that seemed to turn into a kind of epileptic dance, while "Bolero" played. I read that, according to Idries Shah, the main melody of "Bolero" is adapted from a melody composed for and used in Sufi training. Did Tarkovsky know this? "Bolero" plays one more time in the film, in the last scene of The Room before the transition to the bar to which we see the men have returned after their ordeal, the same bar in which they had met before beginning their journey. When they had reached The Room, the professor had revealed his intention to blow The Room up. He was convinced not to do so, and he had taken apart his bomb and thrown it into the water outside The Room. The last shot in The Zone is of a live fish in the water and reddish-black liquid pollution that resembles blood spreading in the water over it while "Bolero" plays. With this fish, we should reflect back on the biblical passage on the "fishers of men".

The wife's profession of commitment to The Stalker, and acceptance of pain that brings meaning to pleasure, is followed by the child reading Fyodor Tyutchev's "Dull Flame of Desire", a poem that we might not only consider intellectually advanced for her years, but is a peculiar choice due the nature of the passion expressed.

I love your eyes, my dear
Their splendid sparkling fire
When suddenly you raise them so
To cast a swift embracing glance
Like lightning flashing in the sky
But there's a charm that is greater still
When my love's eyes are lowered
When all is fired by passion's kiss
And through the downcast lashes
I see the dull flame of desire

The girl is young and we don't know how she comprehends the poem's expression of desire, which she has read as the train whistle sounded, as what seems to be dandelion fluff floats through the air, while visible vapors from an unknown source have wafted up through the glassware on the table. Her head is raised as she reflects upon the poem, then she lowers her head and gazes through downcast eyes on the glasses. As each glass independently moves, a dog her father had brought home from The Zone whines uncomfortably, as if aware that powers of The Zone are stirring here. She glances at it and the dog silences, as if her glance is responsible for the dog falling silent. She looks back to the glasses and continues moving them, the only glass that she presses over the edge onto the floor being the tallest one that is empty. As soon as it strikes the floor, yet does not break, the rumbling of the train begins, shaking the table, the remaining glassware on it not moving at all, and "Ode to Joy" begins. We may return now to meditate on the opening, and as the camera moves through the doors into the bedroom at the film's beginning, we realize how golden are those doors with the sepia tone, and that we could interpret the sepia as infusing this world outside The Zone in a gold that is sometimes dark and sometimes light, like the wife's rationalization of the essential balance of despair and joy, and we see the glass that moves across the bedside chair as if motivated by the train, but it wasn't the train after all, and we observe The Stalker watching as we faintly hear Beethoven's 9th, only briefly.

Monkey wears the gold-tone scarf. If the next generation is being expressed as the golden sphere and their potential, the end doesn't show Tarkovsky's anticipation of what is to come. Because she is a young, passive girl, because we saw her being carried by her father on her shoulders, because we are given to trust the mother's monologue, because we feel these are good people, we trust for and expect an end message of hope and love from Tarkovsky. But I do wonder if we can look upon the youth sacrificed to the Meatgrinder in the novel, by a prior generation in which it so trusted, and see this, if in a gentler form, with the so-called cursed Monkey and her relationship to her parents, in the relationship of each generation to its antecedent.

Towards the middle of the film, when The Stalker and the individuals he is guiding through The Zone are briefly resting, we see The Stalker lying next to water, then Tarkovsky switches back to sepia as the camera pans over filthy shallow water, showing what is underneath, a myriad of objects including icons, guns and coins. As this occurs, we hear Monkey's voice reciting from Revelation's 6, when the 6th seal is opened. We can only know it's her voice when we hear her reading the poem at film's end.

There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The heavens receded like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?”

The segment is dream-like in its orientation to the rest of the film, though not perhaps a literal dream. We are given the impression that The Stalker is hearing the voice which we don't yet know is Monkey's internal voice. She laughs as she speaks, as if enjoying the the prospect of these tribulations, or is amused by them. At the end of the recitation, Tarkovsky returns to color and settles the camera briefly upon the black dog seated on the bank by the water, alert to the presence of the men. We then have the voice of The Stalker speaking the story of the resurrected Christ on the road to Emmaus, how he was not at first recognized.

In Tarkovsky's Nostalgia, a mad man, Domenico, is as an alter ego to a writer who travels to Italy to research a Russian poet who had lived there then committed suicide upon his return to Russia. Certainly this is all allegory, but Domenico is indeed mad as he had imprisoned his family for seven years in their home, hoping to save them from the apocalypse. In a flashback, we see a boy who may be his son asking if this is the end of the world, the police freeing the family from their imprisonment. Domenico transfers to the writer a task he's been unable to complete. He has striven to cross a pool of water, from one end to the other, with a lit candle not expiring. Later in the film, having given a speech on the unhealthiness of the sane who have destroyed the world, and how they need the insane, Domenico immolates himself while standing upon a statue in a square. A crowd stands around and watches, some seeming to have been in on his plan. He had wanted music to accompany but he's told the music will not work. He lights himself aflame anyway. The music only begins when the fire is lit, as if the music is instead the fire, which it is, and the music is Beethoven's "Ode to Joy". In effect, he becomes that candle he could not keep lit as he crossed the water. Domenico crawls down from the statue on which he had been standing and as he crawls across the square, TOMORROW IS THE END OF THE WORLD appears on the screen. Then the music stops and all we hear are his agonized screams, no one helping him. The next day, the writer successfully accomplishes the task of crossing the pool with the lit candle, then he too collapses and dies.

I know that Tarkovsky has written that the main, enduring themes intended to be communicated by Stalker are faith and love. If Tarkovsky had ended the film with the wife's confession, this is what the viewer would keep foremost as they leave the film, but that is not where he stops. He instead moves on to the final scene with the daughter who had laughed while reciting the verse on the apocalypse. Her expression is a void, we have no idea what she feels. She reminds me of Tarkovsky's use of Leonardo da Vinci's portrait of "A Young Lady With a Juniper" in Mirror. Of this he writes in Sculpting in Time:

Let us look at Leonardo's portrait of "A Young Lady With a Juniper", which we used in Mirror for the scene of the father's brief meeting with his children when he comes home on leave. There are two things about Leonardo's images that are arresting. One is the artist's amazing capacity to examine the object from outside, standing back, looking from above the world—a character- istic of artists like Bach or Tolstoy. And the other, the fact that the picture affects us simultaneously in two opposite ways. It is not possible to say what impression the portrait finally makes on us. It is not even possible to say definitely whether we like the woman or not, whether she is appealing or unpleasant. She is at once attractive and repellent. There is something inexpressibly beautiful about her and at the same time repulsive, fiendish. And fiendish not at all in the romantic, alluring sense of the word; rather--beyond good and evil. Charm with a negative sign....the...capacity at once to enchant and to repel... If you try to analyse Leonardo's portrait, separating it into its components, it will not work. At any rate it will explain nothing. For the emotional effect exercised on us by the woman in the picture is powerful precisely because it is impossible to find in her anything that we can definitely prefer, to single out any one detail from the whole, to prefer any one, momentary impression to another, and make it our own, to achieve a balance in the way we look at the image presented to us. And so there opens up before us the possibility of interaction with infinity, for the great function of the artistic image is to be a kind of detector of infinity... towards which our reason and our feelings go soaring, with joyful, thrilling haste.

The use of the portrait in Mirror is when a father returns from war and greets his two children. The son is looking through a book on Leonardo that his sister scolds him for having stolen. They hear their father and run to him, and then we see the portrait and from there go to the face of the mother, she arguing with the father over with whom the son will live as they have separated. Monkey's father has returned as if from war, from prison, and then from The Zone. Adults had been the focus throughout the film, their stories, but at the end Tarkovsky shifts to the child. It is this same ambiguity Tarkovsky finds in "A Young Lady with a Juniper" that I feel we are confronted with in Monkey.

Kubrick's Alex, when motivated by the spirit that was "Ode to Joy", initially used his energy only towards selfish ends, fulfilled by power and sadism, then when bootstrapped by programming, unable to exert free will, Beethoven's music and violence sickened him to such a degree they made him immobile. Finally, a middle ground was attained, in which unconscious boundaries restrained and guided passion and intellect, but by which he didn't feel disempowered. This is expressed at the end of Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange in scenes as enigmatic and puzzling as Monkey's manipulation of the glasses if we don't understand how Alex does now have those unconscious boundaries, and yet he is also certainly selfishly motivated and ready to take his place in a world rigged to bow to power. Thus, though he can't walk and is unable to feed himself, bound by a body cast, his powers of manipulation aren't physical when he opens his mouth for the prime minister to feed him and the prime minister reluctantly acts as Alex desires. Like Monkey, he wishes, and the world responds, but boundaries have made Alex amenable to negotiation.

Monkey is a cipher. She expresses no emotion as we hear her mentally reading the poem about desire. We have no idea how she feels about the poem, but we have heard her laughter over the violence of the apocalypse, which reminds of Alex. We see her manipulation of the objects on the table and have no idea how she feels about her ability to manipulate the world, a channel for the spirit that moves where it will, just as Alex had perceived an ammoral spirit of Bog as providing him inspiration to do as he willed. Though we comprehend the love of her parents for her, we don't know how Monkey feels, a girl whose mother calls her cursed. She is both appealing and worrisome. She is both beautiful and also fiendish, as if she is beyond good and evil.

Though Tarkovsky says we are to be left with messages of love and hope, we also uncomfortably sense that Monkey is poised on the threshold of learning about the complications of desire and how she is able to manipulate her world. She tests herself by going too far, pressing past a boundary when she mentally nudges over the edge of the table a glass. We sense her intelligence, her consideration of the poem, and that it is linked to her giving way to desire, pressing beyond limits, but there are no shattering consequences as the glass doesn't break. The audience is left in a state of suspension.


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