<an excerpt of an earlier text by my hand, concerning Stalker and the concepts of suture and excess>
In Stalker, there are a few noteworthy examples where characters directly interact –or speak – with the camera. To highlight these examples in a correct manner I’ve included some screenshots, which are pictured below. With regards to excess and suture these will be handled in order by number.
I’d purely like to establish example 1 as a fairly standard use of the process of suture, so the other sequences contrast better in the accumulation of examples. The Wife and the Stalker have a conversation; the viewer sees a shot of the Wife directly interacting with the camera. In the complementary shot the spectator views the Stalker, and the sequence is closed by an establishing shot of the Wife and the Stalker together. As stated earlier, this sequence of shots and montage seems the standard practice with regards to suture.
The sequences become deviant in example 2 to 4, where a character looks and acts directly into the camera, but it’s never established where that character is looking at. It seems that these sequences become more deviant from the norm as the film progresses. In example 2, we see the Stalker looking into the camera for a brief moment and the camera doesn’t establish from where the gaze is coming from. Then, in example 3, the Writer delivers a short monologue into the camera, it cuts to a shot of the Stalker and the Professor in the distance, the Writer appears in the shot (his head in the same angle which he earlier was delivering his monologue) and in the end looks into the lens again. This all happens without the camera establishing where the Writer is gazing. The last example is number 4 where the Wife delivers a lengthy monologue into the lens about her expectations and practice of living with the Stalker.
What can be deduced from examples 2 to 4 is that characters interact directly with the camera, without the spectator knowing what they’re looking at or what gaze is looking upon the characters. What consequences does this have with regards to suture and excess?
In the context of suture, it can be established that the spectator is dealing with an unsutured sequence and likewise unsutured gaze. As stated before, this supposedly creates awareness of the frame with the viewer and can break immersion and continuity. But is this really the case? Once again reinforcing the viewer’s attention on the frame and with that the free-floating gaze of absence, I believe this has consequences on the level of the narrative and viewer experience. Because of this reinforcement on the absent gaze, the presence of the Zone could be felt stronger through denying suture rather than materializing this presence into a visible form. This becomes especially apparent in example 3, where the Writer seems to gaze into nothingness, and when he gazes into the lens, all we see in the background is darkness. A repetition of this technique in another form can be seen in example 4, where the Wife is talking into the camera as if there were another subject or person in the room, engaged in a conversation with her. It must be noted that this monologue takes place outside of the Zone, but because of the different color tone between the Zone and the urban living space of the Stalker, I’d like to argue that Zone still exerts presence through the hue of the images. On a narrative level, one could argue that the Zone is always present in the Stalker’s house, if not through him than through his daughter, Monkey, who is ‘contaminated’ by it (giving her telekinetic powers).
With regards to the other concept, can examples 2 to 4 be considered excessive? In the context of a formalist approach, I suppose they can be considered excessive. This is rather more due to the question if one would consider these sequences part of the style rather than the narrative. In the above stated arguments related to suture, I tried to argue that these sequences have narrative function by making the presence of the Zone felt through denying the process of suture. But, denying this process has consequences in the form of breaking immersion with the spectator and making viewers aware of the frame. If one would consider this counter-unifying (breaking immersion and continuity), they could be considered excessive. I, for one, would like to argue that in the context of their possible narrative function are difficult to be seen as excessive, and have value in their respective functions.
Concluding this segment revolved around the unsutured sequences in Stalker’s imagery, I would like to state that suture and excess relate to each other in a different way than the previous segment. Mostly due to the denial of suture, an extra emphasis can be found on the narrative function the sequences fulfill. The role excess plays in this argumentation depends how one would view these sequences. From a formalist view, they can be observed as excessive. From the perspective of their function, the sequences could prove unifying with regards to the narrative.