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Roadside Picnic: 07/13/14

cover art

In the book blogosphere the oft-mentioned "proper" order of things is to read the book first and then see the movie. I tend to do things the other way around, seeing a film and wanting to experience the source material.

Roadside Picnic by Arkady Strugatsky and Boris Strugatsky is the source material for one of my favorite soviet films — Stalker (1979). My introduction to it came in an advanced film theory class where we were learning about narrative transformation.

In Stalker, there is the Zone, an abandoned, restricted area where strange things happen. Stalkers are hired by those who wish to see it (illegally of course). In Roadside Picnic, there are many of these Zones. They are areas where alien technology has appeared.

Red Schuhart, like his cinematic counterpart is one of these stalkers. His daughter was born in the Zone and is affected by it. Because of her dependence on it, he can't leave, even though he wants to.

I am grateful for Roadside Picnic providing inspiration to the film, but I was not as blown away by it as I am by the film. The Zone just needs to be shown.

Cinematically it is distinguished from the rest of the world by its color, just like the Wizard of Oz film (1939). But it also uses actual (and dangerous) abandoned buildings as its backdrop, bringing and eeriness that no set designer could accomplish. The book while more complex in its world and character building, can't compete with the visceral impact of the films visuals.

Three stars

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