Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker is a film set in two worlds, but one that takes place entirely on Earth. The first act of Stalker shows us an unnamed, dilapidated city shot in washed-out sepia tones so murky and muted it is difficult to imagine anything surviving there. In this city lives the Stalker, a man called to guide people into the mysterious region known as the Zone.
The Zone is Stalker’s second world, shot in color and populated with the sounds of animals. It is the result of an unexplained alien encounter that occurred some twenty years prior to the action of Stalker. At the center of the Zone is a room that, when you enter it, will grant your deepest wish.
The Stalker leads two men, a professor and an author, first on an illegal escape from the city, and then through the complicated, capricious series of traps guarding the room. He tells them: “It lets those pass who have lost all hope; not good or bad, but wretched people.”
Stalker incorporates a number of Scriptural allusions on their journey, including a recitation of the Emmaus Road story and a character donning a crown of thorns. The film’s climax, too, is an extended dialogue on the struggle between proof and belief.
Along with its science fiction elements, Stalker is also a family drama. At the beginning of the film, the Stalker’s wife pleads with him not to undertake another journey to the Zone, for his sake—he has been imprisoned for previous trips—as well as for their invalid daughter, incongruously named Monkey (whom barely knows him). Even though he does not listen and leads the professor and author into the Zone, they are there for him when he returns, and it is from the Stalker’s wife and daughter that the film’s two strongest notes of grace come at the very end of the film.
—Tyler Petty, from his blog Faces Unveiled.