1 out of 10 for this awful film.
I only went to see it because Jason Wyngarde told it me it contained all the things I like in films: trains, dogs and monkeys. He told me that by putting all three together in one film, Tarkovsky transcended genre.
Jason Wyngarde is a fool.
The film earns its one star out of ten for the dog. He is pretty cool. He shows up about halfway through in what you think is a dream sequence but then sticks around when everyone wakes up and pops up again from time to time. He is affectionate and energetic, without being too bouncy, and he is still young enough that his paws sometimes seem too big for him. He is well-trained, unlike the rest of the cast, and gives the best performance in the whole film.
Tarkovsky clearly does not know what he thinks about trains. He sends mixed messages about them.
For a long time it feels like you are only going to hear them off screen, and then when you do eventually see them they are disappearing into the fog. But then the Stalker and his clients find a motor-driven buggy that travels along the railway line. The sequence is so exhilarating, capturing the real experience of riding the rails, that the film turns into colour to express how magical it all is. But then they ditch the buggy and for some reason, the inattentive Tarkovsky forgets to turn the colour back off.
And the rest of the film seems to blame trains for everything, from the polluted landscape to the glass the naughty girl carelessly breaks at the end.
From what I could make out from the people leaving the cinema behind me, a lot of people think that the dog, who is yelping offscreen, is moving it with his telekinetic powers. (Jason Wyngarde probably thinks that, too.)
Oh, and the monkey is not even a monkey.