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Harmont, Magnitogorsk, Lianozovo: le macerie dell’industria sovietica


It is commonplace for film critics: Andrey Tarkovsky's Stalker is based on Arkady and Boris Strugatsky's Roadside Picnic, but the great director built a masterpiece out of an ordinary middlebrow book. Tarkovsky's work is clearly one of reduction: in Stalker the science-fiction decor has almost disappeared, and the viewer is left with what resembles a moral parable in an out-of-time setting. But in Roadside Picnic the setting is in itself highly significant. The science-fiction side is relatively modest compared to the subtly disturbing realistic one. The place where the action takes place is not well-defined, but under the generic Western attire it is not hard to recognize the Soviet Union – a Soviet Union where utopian dreams of a flourishing industrial future are gone, leaving at their place a dangerous and incomprehensible agglomerate of ruins. Tarkovsky, therefore, neglected the most interesting aspect of the novel; the artistic character of his parable would probably be arguable, was it not for the truly amazing visual side of his film. The striking similarity of Tarkovsky's shots to Oskar Rabin's paintings relates the film to the output of the Lianozovo artistic and poetic group, which was, at his turn, based on a view of Soviet society as a timeless space of ruins.