The strength of the film isn't the look & feel of the Zone but it's the psychological journey the guests & Stalker go on.
Filled with terrific visuals this truly is a unique vision & incredibly thought provoking. There is a lot in this film & it requires multiple viewings.
Stalker is about a place that exists outside of the real world, both literally when talking about the Zone in the film, but also in the sense that real truth is something that seems endlessly out of reach. The film is more of a meditation on that theme than anything else, and it's pacing and sound design lend to that meditation extremely well.
It is depressing how supercilious each shot is, always lingering far longer than it should, and it is far more depressing how serious each actor is taking his/her role. I never thought I'd find it, but I think I found the worst movie I've ever seen. Not The Room, not Birdemic, not any movie in the Twilight series... this. The movie must have been created just for the purpose of the director, because it is terrible. Bar none awful. It might as well have been random scenery being filmed with voice-overs of the actors posing the same banal questions, and that might've been better. Truly, the "abstract art" of the film industry, in that it is posing as a masterpiece when in actuality it is dog shit.
A man known as the "Stalker" leads 2 men, a writer and a professor, through a mysterious area known as the "Zone" so they can find a room which supposedly grants wishes. The Stalker is the hired guide because since he has walked through the "Zone" multiple times, he knows how to lead them safely through its complex traps, pitfalls, and sudden distortions. The Writer says that his reason for going through it is that he fears losing his inspiration. The Professor says that his reason for going through it is that he hopes to win the Nobel Pease Prize. The 3 set out and start to walk through the "Zone".
Although it was slow at times, I never felt that I was wasting my time with this movie because of the stunning ideas that it expresses. This movie is a story of immense consequences. It is also made more compelling by how the characters constantly have arguments with each other. You can interpret this film in multiple ways and there are many ways one could view this film. While the film mainly focused on the meaning of life and both knowing and feeling too much, it was quite obvious at times that some of the dialogue in the movie were thoughts of Tarkovsky himself. At some points in the movie, it would talk about the 'unselfishness' of art and the shallowness of technology which claimed it to be no more than an 'artificial limb'.
This movie is made even better by the unforgettable imagery in it. In the countryside scenes in the "Zone", the film is in color. When the film is outside the "Zone" and inside the tunnels and other inside areas inside the room, it is in sepia footage. This brilliant color scheme makes for some very impressive moments. I always like it when films have beautiful cinematography because even when you get bored by a slow pacing, you will be impressed by the unforgettable images they have.
I've seen many theories on this film and there are some that I agree on and some that I disagree on. For example, I've seen some people say that it is unknown whether or not "The Room" had any powers to begin with. I disagree with this because the movie made it clear that it did have powers. The movie explained that soldiers were sent into "The Zone" and they all went missing. Also, it showed soldiers surrounding the place preventing anyone from going inside it. The soldiers wouldn't be there if the place had no powers. Also, it is made more clear that this is true by the final few minutes which evoke a sense of surrealism.
In conclusion, this ranks up there with other Russian and Soviet films. It has a very simple, yet grand story. It has stunning ideas in it which will leave you puzzled, but interested in learning about them for years. At first, I was bothered by its slow-pacing, but I got used to it. I will repeat one more time that if you don't like slow pacing and talk-heavy dialogue then you won't enjoy this film (In fact, I'm pretty sure that most people will be very confused on their first viewing if they barely know anything about the plot. I actually had to check Wikipedia a few times to make sure I was understanding everything). However, if you like slow pacing then you will likely find this to be one of the deepest movies made in years.