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A film about three men walking through the wooded territory, two of which are mostly calm, and the third is constantly afraid of something.
—A popular recap of unknown origin

Stalker, or СТАЛКЕР in the original Russian, is a 1979 Andrei Tarkovsky Science Fiction film shot in Estonia. It is an adaptation (albeit a very loose one) by the Strugatsky Brothers of their earlier science-fiction story Roadside Picnic. You can watch Stalker online at Russian Film Hub.

The film takes in and around a devastated partially-industrialised landscape called The Zone. At the centre of The Zone we are told, lies a location called The Room, which is said to grant the deepest desires of those strong enough to make it there, avoiding the numerous hazards for which the Zone enjoys a fearsome and lethal reputation.

Our three main characters meet in a bar outside the Zone. They are only named by their professions; Stalker, Writer, and Professor. Stalker is both the protagonist and also the name of a class of semi-professional guides, skilled at infiltrating the security cordon surrounding the Zone, and avoiding the many hazards within it. He regards the Zone with something close to religious awe, and treats it as a temperamental Deity to be appeased and wondered at. Writer is an urbane, fashionable, cynical author with a drink problem. He complains that he has lost his inspiration, and wishes to regain it via the power of The Room. Professor is a taciturn physicist, who appears to have no particular reason to visit the Zone, and a small backpack containing a small nuclear bomb that he is very attached to.

Loosely related to the video game of the same name. Very loosely.

This film contains examples of the following tropes:

  • The Alcoholic: Writer is the first to the bar, is refused spirits and so buys beer as if that doesn't count. Stalker later tips away Writer's booze stash (hidden under Writer's decidedly non-Badass Longcoat).
  • Art Shift: From sepia in the town to color in the Zone.
  • Bald of Awesome: Stalker has a convict's buzz cut.
  • Big Lipped Alligator Moment: Having dodged the security forces, our heroes treat us to five minute-long studies of the backs of each other's heads as they ride a motorized draisine into the Zone.
  • The Cake Is a Lie: Does the Room grant you your deepest desire? Only Porcupine would know, but even though he became rich, he killed himself because he sent his brother to his death. Nobody else is known to have gone into the Room and had their wishes granted.
  • Character Title
  • Cool Car: The three charge the gates in a Series II 88" Land Rover.
  • Crowning Music of Awesome:
  • Eldritch Location: The Zone in all its incarnations (book, film, and game) is a sterling example of this trope.
  • Elite Mooks: Averted by The Zone security forces. They are generally more interested in television, and hosing civilian vehicles with machine gun fire
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Stalker, Writer, and Professor.
  • Final Boss: The Meat Grinder.
  • Genius Loci: The Zone.
  • Geo Effects: The shortest route between two points within the Zone is never in a straight line. Oh, and never attempt to retrace your steps.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: Stalker's wife describes his crippled daughter as "a gift from The Zone." The locations for the outdoor scenes were heavily polluted, and several people on the crew suffered illnesses and untimely deaths.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: The film's usage of "stalking" to mean "to steal past something", as it happens, is etymologically more accurate.
  • Leave the Camera Running: Director's trademark.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: The Meat Mincer.
  • Only One Name: Stalker implies it is safer for everyone in case they are arrested that no-one knows anyone else's name, although the trend encompasses almost the entire cast: Stalker, Writer, Professor, Luger, Monkey, Teacher (or Porcupine).
  • Oh Crap: Writer decides to go off on his own until a disembodied voice actually it's The Zone shouts at him to "Stop right where you are!"
  • The Quest
  • Real Is Brown: The world outside the Zone is (mostly) filmed in washed-out sepia tones
  • Scenery Gorn: Anywhere outside The Zone. Overlaps with Crapsack World.
  • Scenery Porn: Almost anywhere inside The Zone, the exploded tanks, artillery, and incinerated corpses of the armies sent to surround the Zone notwithstanding
  • Science Is Wrong: Writer's snarkalicious speech to Professor about finding truth in science and art.
  • Stalker Without a Crush
  • The Stoic: Professor is not upset by the challenge to modern science that the Zone presents. He even lands a few rhetorical punches on Writer following his little speech about truth.
  • Took a Level In Kindness: Stalker is much more kind and noble than Redrick, his counterpart in the Roadside Picnic.
  • Troubled Production: The original print of the movie was destroyed in a fire, forcing Andrei to shoot the whole thing all over again. That's the reason why he had to abandon a more lavish production (like the one he did earlier while adapting Lem's Solaris) and retool the film into a more cerebral and looser adaptation of the novel.
  • True Art Is Incomprehensible: The utter lack of exposition makes the entire film open to a wide variety of interpretations (though it does follow the basic plot and themes of the novel fairly faithfully).
  • What Do You Mean Its Not Symbolic: According to Word of God, a black hound is just a black hound.
  • Wonder Child: Monkey appears to have telekinetic powers.
  • The Woobie: Stalker bemoans the lack of 'magic' in the modern world, gets upset when people fail to pay the Zone appropriate respect, and generally walks around halfway between panicky tears and childish stroppiness.
  • You All Meet in An Inn: Stalker, Writer, and Professor start off in a bar.