It has nothing to do with chance that the picture used for this theme’s introduction of HETEROTOPIAS IN CINEMA was extracted from Stalker (1979) of Tarkovksy since the Zone is, as far as I am concerned, one of the best achieved heterotopia in the world of cinema.
I wrote a small essay last week about the resistance to an institutionalization of power based on a study of heterotopia. Here is the little chapter I wrote about Stalker:
Stalker is an interpretation of the Strugatsky brothers’ novel called Roadside picnic. This example of heterotopia illustrates perfectly the adoption of behaviors set in a different system of rationality than the ones belonging to the normative world. It quite matches with the type of heterotopia that Michel Foucault calls: “crisis”.
In the so-called primitive societies, there is a certain form of heterotopia that I would call crisis heterotopias, i.e., there are privileged or sacred or forbidden places, reserved for individuals who are, in relation to society and to the human environment in which they live, in a state of crisis: adolescents, menstruating women, pregnant women. the elderly, etc.
There is nothing here as “biological crisis” per say. However just as those crisis heterotopias, the Zone asks for a radically different behavior from the one normally used in the exterior world. In the same manner than a shamanic dance or a Papoo initiation ritual, this behavior escapes to the scientific rationality and thus accesses to a mysticism that only the heteropia can maintain as a space.
This ability to escape from a rational system does not constitutes in itself a defense against the institutionalization of power since a initiated guide (shaman, wizard, stalker) is necessary; however the even existence of alternatives to a scientific logic based on postulates which can no longer be claimed as unique, allows anyway an increased freedom to the one coming from a unique system. Moreover, experience with the unknown or the danger always participates more to an individual use of the political power than within a daily comforting and confortable environment.
It is also interesting to observe that, despite heterotopia needs some entrance/exit processes (very visible in Stalker. see first picture below), it does not necessitates to own a different physicality in order to apply a set of different behaviors. All the ambiguity of Stalker comes from the fact that, at any moment of the film, the spectator is able to know if the zone is ruled by extranormal logics (the Strugatsky’s zone was supposed to be a leftover from an aliens’ picnic), or rather if it is only a human perception. This second proposition seems to be more interesting since such an heterotopia would be applicable within any territoriality which would thus change its status and allows a proliferation of zones within the normative world.