Tottenham_Toad’s review published on Letterboxd:
Andrei Tarkovsky's timeless classic that is Stalker follows a small group of men who head into what is known as "the zone"; in hope that they will come face to face with what they truly seek out of life. Aesthetic is key to the films narrative, as the possible metaphor that is reality in Russia is seen through a green/grey camera, in which their is little hope. Yet this is juxtaposed with the incredulous beauty that the zone has to offer (which is mostly covered by an ambiguous mist that covers the background); this can be seen mainly through the change in colour saturation, as the film bounces between reality and surreality. Cinematographically speaking, it is not only innovative, but also reminiscent of Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, predominantly through the long camera pans and little amount of shots overall. The choice in creating the film in this way seemed to only make the scenes more realistic and empowering. Alongside the similarities with 2001, Film Noir could also be seen; with German Expressionist lighting is vivid from the start, alongside the possibly Neo-Noir setting. The film is loosely based on Boris and Arkady Strugatsky's book named "The Wish Machine" (which later influenced the Videogame Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl); however, one could argue that it holds specific themes that are also similar to the book series Metro, written by Dmitry Glukhovsky. This could show that this film has played significant impact on the Russian media, and has become a classic globally speaking.
The plot to the film is somewhat curious; given it does not entirely follow the likes of Todorov's theory on equilibrium. There is little I can relate the film to, as it holds a cyclical style of events; as the ending clearly defines that our protagonist has inevitably returned to his previous state that was created at the start. What can be seen is through the use of withheld information; as the ominous origin to the zone is never full explained. therefore, leaving the film to rely heavily on the use of tension. This is refreshing (as an avid film spectator), given the use of tension fits perfectly, and does not fall into the standardised horror cliche. In fact, there is little of the horror genre that is apparent. It is not often that one can be completely blown away by a film, especially when their knowledge is rather good; however the extent in which Stalker explores life, and all that it holds is mind blowing. Blade Runner often comes to mind when thinking of film philosophy; but there is little to no battle between that and Stalker. Stalker could be interpreted as more of a philosophical output on society, as opposed to a film; given it's undoubtedly unique story basis.
When it comes to the actors, and more specifically their performances; I personally find it hard to judge due to it being in another language. From what I could interpret, the acting was unquestionably good. At moments, the mixture between heart-wrenching monologues and impressive acting ability felt overwhelming; and ultimately created a great feel to the films intensity. Despite the film being focused on the Stalker himself, it could be found that the dynamic that the actors created, through their own personal ideologies, was unparalleled. Alexander Kaidanovsky's Stalker portrayal clearly identified specific groups contextually; mainly that of religious, as he openly believed the rumours of The Zone. Along with this, is the folklore that is surrounded with their occupation, such as the "curse" he holds. This curse is linked heavily with his daughter's ambiguous nature, as well as her inability to walk. In stark contrast with him is the views of both other characters; Anatoly Solonitsyn (The Writer) and Nikolai Grinko (The Professor) held the view that it was all a hoax, in an attempt to gain monetary benefits from their naivity. This view on the situation is broken by the Stalker's breakdown after explaining everything he can. Finally is the wife to the Stalker, portrayed by Alisa Freindlich. Her role is in trying to break his "curse", and bring him back to reality. She is very much a supporting role to the rest of the cast, but leaves the film with a monologue that followed closely to Charlie Chaplin's in The Great Dictator. Her final stroke of wisdom allowed for an increasingly exciting ending, that left a large amount to personal interpretation.
In conclusion, Stalker is an absolute artistic masterpiece. I use the word "artistic" heavily, given that the film would definitely not appeal to viewers who are not as invested in the cinema as others. If you are one who appreciates fantastic pieces of film, then this is a must watch. Not only is it exciting on the first watch, but it's left just enough information missing to make me want to re-watch it instantly.