Sinister story behind ‘greatest film of all time’ which killed its director, his wife, and the leading man
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Featured Image Credit: Film at Lincoln Center
A movie labelled as the 'greatest of all time' has a rather sinister story behind it, as it's said to have killed its director, his wife, and the leading star.
We've heard some pretty shocking stories surrounding different types of films over the years, but this particular one surely tops the lot.
Putting your life and limb at risk for art is nothing new, but it truly is something different to give up your life for purely entertainment purposes.
Some of the more outlandish examples include Renaissance painters being exposed to toxic chemicals used in their oil paint and more recently David Blaine's downright weird stunts, such as spending 44 days in a glass box above the Thames.
But for the film Stalker, director Andrei Tarkovsky may have paid the ultimate price of all.
Set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, the film sees the titular 'Stalker' guiding people through a zone which has been rendered uninhabitable.
Tarkovsky chose an industry-ravaged section of Estonia to shoot the film after an earthquake made the original location in Tajikistan impossible to shoot in.
Released in 1979, Tarkovsky died seven years later in 1986.
Sound recordist Vladimir Sharun has since said he believes that the deaths of Tarkovsky, his wife Larissa and actor Anatoly Solonitsyn were linked to the toxic environment they were working in.
In 2001, he said: “We were shooting near Tallinn in the area around the small river Jägala with a half-functioning hydroelectric station. Up the river was a chemical plant and it poured out poisonous liquids downstream.
"There is even this shot in Stalker: snow falling in the summer and white foam floating down the river. In fact it was some horrible poison.”
He added: “Many women in our crew got allergic reactions on their faces. Tarkovsky died from cancer of the right bronchial tube. And Tolya Solonitsyn too.
"That it was all connected to the location shooting for Stalker became clear to me when Larisa Tarkovskaya died from the same illness in Paris."
It should be worth nothing that the deaths being attributed to the poisoned river is only Sharun's theory, as it's never been confirmed if the deaths were indeed linked to the harsh surroundings while filming the movie.
Stalker has since become viewed as a hugely important piece of Soviet cinema, and is regularly included on lists of the greatest films of all time.
Whether the film did contribute the deaths or not, it raises some interesting questions about how far people are willing to go to create their art.