Zona: A Book about a Film about a Journey to a Room. Geoff Dyer in Conversation at the Watershed, Bristol.

Geoff Dyer in conversation at the Watershed, Bristol 26/02/2012.

“The relation of word to image is an infinite relation. What is released on the film screen is neither given up to sight, nor put safely under the shroud of invisibility (…). Reaffirming the relation of word to image in its infinity is not merely saying that verbal language cannot capture with accuracy what lies on the other side of the discursive border; or that its function proves to be inadequate when the realm of activity involved is that of looking and hearing, rather than speaking and deciphering”  – Trinh T. Minh-ha quoted in Cinema Interval

Dyer’s novel switches the paradigm of filmic adaptations; it is a literary exploration of Andrei Tarkovsy’s striking film Stalker (1979). Dyer describes the film, sequence-by-sequence, riffing on its implications. The book is divided in two with the page literally cut in half. The top half describing shot-for-shot the film and the bottom half consisting of appended footnotes made up of his thoughts as sparked by resonant moments in the film. This structure effectively mirrors the experience of watching a film you love: you follow it with rapture as well as being provoked to think independently. A film like Stalker certainly gives one the space to think.

“Dyer’s book reminds me that writing about a film doesn’t have to have a ‘purpose’, it’s an end in itself.”

Dyer refers to his book as a summary, but it is more than that. It is a systematic linguistic excavation of the film-world created by Tarkovsky. The relationship between word and image is an interesting one that is little explored. During the conversation at the Watershed Dyer read excerpts of his text while the corresponding sequence played out on the screen, his reading added depth to the images projected and created a sense of double-looking.  I guess this is a little like a double-take: when you think you’ve seen something so you look again, but this time you look with full attentiveness. And this is what the book cultivates: attentiveness.

Stalker (1979)

As a film student I often doubt the ‘purpose’ or ‘benefit’ of film analysis. Dyer’s book reminds me that writing about a film doesn’t have to have a ‘purpose’, it’s an end in itself; in the same way that a film is just a film… form is content.

Dyer’s book is available to buy online and he will be holding another talk at the London Review Bookshop on March 23rd.

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