Thomas’s review published on Letterboxd:
“Stalker” is a challenging but also very rewarding cinematic experience. It´s challenging because the film is long, extremely slow-paced, complex, cerebral, ambiguous, and not very emotionally engaging and it´s rewarding because of the mind-blowing imagery and the thematically rich story full of philosophical and psychological depth. For me, “Stalker” is the kind of movie I appreciate more with my brain than my heart.
To quickly summarize the plot: In the distant future, there exists a sealed off area of unknown origin called “The Zone”, in which the normal laws of nature don´t apply. Within “The Zone” there is said to be a secret room, which grants a person's innermost desires. Our protagonist is a guide (a so-called Stalker), who leads two clients through the Zone, a writer searching for inspiration and a scientist searching for truth and knowledge. On their difficult journey through the mysterious Zone, the three men have several conversations about philosophical and existential topics.
“Stalker” is a thought-provoking tale about self-discovery, hope, desire, fears, truth, faith, art, science, religion, philosophy, life, death, the human condition, and the search for meaning. I especially liked the observation that there is often a discrepancy between our proclaimed (conscious) and our true (subconscious) desires, and that the discovery of this discrepancy can lead to disillusion, guilt, and self-hatred. The film gives you a lot to think about (too much for a first watch) and can be analyzed and interpreted in many different ways (for example, you could see it as a religious allegory). I think everyone can takeaway something from this movie.
The film is masterfully crafted and technically brilliant. It has a hypnotizing, surreal, and contemplative atmosphere, unforgettable shots, breathtaking cinematography, immersive and mesmerizing long takes, fascinating use of colors, eloquent and profound dialogue, great sound design, and gorgeous sets (the sandy desert room being my favorite). Without the help of expensive special effects, the Zone feels dreamlike and otherworldly. The three lead actors deliver strong performances, although I couldn´t emotionally connect with the characters.
“Stalker” is intellectually stimulating, aesthetically pleasing, and artistically stunning. I can´t argue with anyone who calls “Stalker” a masterpiece, even though the extremely slow pacing, cold atmosphere, and lack of emotional investment prevent me from completely loving it. The film requires a lot of patience and probably a few rewatches to fully appreciate it but like I said, it is a rewarding experience.