Twenty years after a tiny Russian village was decimated by a meteorite, a Writer (Solonoitsyn) and a Scientist (Grinko) enlist the services of a Stalker (Kajdanovsky) to guide them into the cratered area known as the Zone, where it is said one's deepest wish may be granted. Barricaded by the army, the Zone has a forbidding reputation, not least because the Stalker's own guide committed suicide soon after returning a wealthy man. Will this expedition be different?
One of Tarkovsky's greatest achievements, this demanding, sometimes bewildering sci-fi allegory is a three-hour meditation on the nature of the soul, an exercise that plunges us into the heart of man's existential anguish. It is not so much the performances that count as the tense, dreamy mood Tarkovsky sets, especially as the trio approach the vaunted Room. The effect haunts us long after the film has ended. The men's journey, of course, is marked by doubt, misery, and an almost unbearable tension — but hope, by the film's end, is not vanquished. "Stalker" is science fiction for thinking people, and worth every bit of your attention.