Steven Sheehan’s review published on Letterboxd:
A thinking man's Wizard of Oz or the trials and tribulations of a madman? A deceptive pathway where only good can reach out to God or an analogy of man amongst nature seen through a journey of self-discovery and realisation? There's a fair amount to ponder when it comes to identifying the meaning behind Stalker although the likelihood is it means all of the above. Or absolutely none it and probably more.
It's an allegorical tale so simplistic that it allows the viewer to construct their own personal interpretation, view the film as they require. Faith, art and science collide philosophically, each man a steady archetype of the beliefs they represent. That is only garnered through the time we spend with these men however, their history before this meeting left purposely empty.
First and foremost, before any meaningful analysis can be extracted this is a film for the committed. No, not the crazy (although that may help provide the most lucid clarification) but the ones willing to devote energy toward it. As with any Tarkovsky film there is no rush to reach its inner sanctum if that exists at all.
Similar to the problems I encountered with Solaris, the languid pacing combined - I must stress the merger of the two - with its almost overbearing musings made it a hard shell to crack. There is a sense that it is too self-concerned with contemplation, weighing down a want or even a need to engage with the cerebral discussion. Unable to persevere with the elliptical nature of the conversations, my concentration struggled with distraction.
What cannot be denied is the clarity of vision given to the story by Tarkovsky. He turns a dump into another world, morphing the dank and wasteful into an alien landscape. The stark, sepia hues that bookend the journey work perfectly to contrast life inside and out of The Zone. Combined with one or two moments of dialogue and perhaps the central theme of hope running through the film, there is a suggestion that it could reference the bleak existence in Communist Russia at the time. As with almost everything else, that is very much down to interpretation.
Challenging films, the ones that make you stop, rethink or connect your own dots are typically the most rewarding. Rarely is it an easy ride getting there, which is exactly the way it should be. I left Stalker with some of its content wandering through my mind but not enough to make me care about spending further time processing it.