Mark Johnson's Reviews > Zona: A Book About a Film About a Journey to a Room

Zona by Geoff Dyer
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Jun 28, 12

Read from June 20 to 22, 2012

Stalker is astounding to me, as are most of Tarkovsky's films. But reading this book is nearly the opposite experience of watching the film.

Stalker is a suspenseful, hypnotic experience. Tarkovsky sustains a rich feeling of beauty and simple profundity, inspiring confidence in the viewer that he will not let you fall or waste your time by negating the trust built up between you.

The suspense of this book, on the other hand, lies in dreading the next inane observation or mundane association from the author's personal life, most of which take the form of a running parallel text of footnotes, pretty much all of which should have been mercifully deleted.

Dyer claims to love the film, but seems to secretly resent its hold on him. He recounts the film scene by scene only to repeatedly drag it down to the snide, mediocre realm that he lives in. There are a few appreciative passages, the relative depth of which are mostly borrowed from the film itself, but they are quickly and consistently defaced with Dyer's smug, subjective digressions that are so embarrassingly puerile at times they nauseated me as much as the mean-spirited blog postings that inundate the Internet.

Dyer's conceit, of course, is that he is no better than one of the small-minded characters in the film. The book is his own personal journey to the Room, where, like Writer, he would be thrown back onto himself and forced to confront what a self-absorbed person he really is. The problem is that the film characters are embedded in a philosophical, cinematic world that perfectly balances their subjective pettiness. In Dyer's book, it's all him.

Stalker and Tarkovsky deserve better than this. A lot better.
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Colin Heber-Percy I entirely agree with your assessment here. Although I adore Tarkovsky's films, I'd never wish them to be sacrosanct or hallowed beyond criticism. Rather, their very stature calls for critical engagement. Dyer's book struck me as a witless, faintly snide splurge of vulgar anecdote. As you say, the film deserves better.


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