The Stoker is a crime drama by the outstanding director Alexei Balabanov, the penultimate film he shot. Many are ready to recognize him as the best, along with the picture “I also want to.” At the same time, the picture did not know commercial success – perhaps the public did not fully understand the true message of the “Stoker”, the scale of his creative power. Let’s take a look at this message.
What is the movie Stoker about?
The action takes place in St. Petersburg, which in the movie looks like an inconspicuous northern city. Yakut, a former Afghan major and a hero, a failed writer, works here as a stoker. His job is to look after the stoker. Calling and life’s work – a story that he constantly rereads and retypes on an old typewriter. This is a Yakut legend about a long-standing crime…
He left his apartment to his beautiful daughter, he gives her his salary and tries not to interfere in anything. Our Yakut, it seems, is a hermit. But no – someone comes to him all the time, the world does not leave him alone. Yakut is a restrained man, but he is not silent – he shares his wisdom with those who run into his closet. For example, with two schoolgirls with whom he seems to be sincerely friends. But it seems that he is not quite mentally healthy … Here comes a former colleague to him. In Afghanistan, he was a sniper, and in civilian life this “art” was useful to him. Sometimes he delivers strange “parcels” to Yakut – the corpses of “ordered” people, explaining that they are doing a good deed, clearing the world of villains. The sniper has an assistant Bison – a big man who lives in two families. It is this love triangle that sets the tone for the film.
One of Bison’s wives is the daughter of Yakut, the second is the daughter of a sniper. Both work in a fur salon. It was Yakut’s daughter who came up with the idea of bringing things from Yakutia to the salon and thus making a huge profit. Her partner and rival, having found out with whom her husband is cheating, sets her father against Yakut’s daughter, persuading her to eliminate her. This is where the stoker learns the terrible truth about the people who supposedly cleansed the world of filth and evil people…
The meaning of the film Stoker
Balabanov in his 13th film rises to a truly philosophical level. The movie tells about the basis of human life, its only solid foundation – fire, a piece of bread, love for one’s neighbor, retribution for good and revenge for evil. Yes, this is a film about revenge, to which such a person as Yakut has the right. While the spoiled children of civilization squirm and betray each other, succumbing to the fashionable vagueness of moral norms, this heir of shamans and hunters is administering his rightful judgment on the scoundrels. The film is stingy with scenery, before us is a Man as he is. This story is simple and deep, like an ancient myth, like a tundra legend. The director subordinates the plot to the main one and does not spray it on minor characters and insignificant events.
Before the ancient law of blood comes into play, Yakut does not live, he exists. And even the legend of a Russian criminal who robbed and raped the people who sheltered him in a distant snowy land seems somehow tortured, implausible. Maybe that’s why Yakut can’t finish it. The people in the film are also insensitive because they are almost dead – long before their real death. The fact that their life is mechanistic and meaningless is emphasized by the eternally rattling tram No. 12, which dangles back and forth along the street.
And even the music in the cinema, as in one of Dovlatov’s stories, of the “middle type”, seems to mock everyone – it is nothing, just noise from a set of vulgar sounds that accompanies us every day. It plays almost all the time and adds a sense of nausea from such a life. You got used to it, try not to notice. And suddenly, she stops. Silences when real life begins.
The meaning of the ending
The stoker, who recognized his daughter in one of the “parcels”, puts on awards and goes to take revenge on the sniper. He, not knowing what is happening, easily lets him into the house, and Yakut stabs the murderer of his daughter with a ski stick, saying terrible words: “War is not shooting from afar. You didn’t know how to fight.”
Schoolgirls who have been going to Yakut for a long time come to him again – before that, having met one of his girlfriends, he admitted that he had done a bad deed, killed those who did not know how to fight. So, he is just as bad a person as they are.
Yakut dies in front of his stove, cutting his veins, under the flashes of iPhone cameras in the hands of a frivolous girl. The story, which he never finished, the girl will take with her. It is her voice-over who will read to us fragments of the story, the scenes from which are played out on the screen. And in the title role – the same actor who played Yakut.
So, what did Balabanov tell us about this world? The fire that burns in the firebox of the stoker, in the stove of his daughter and in those stoves that the sniper has is a terrible, hellish fire. Against the background of the sepulchral color of the rest of the world, which is visible to us in the frame, this metaphor is absolutely understandable. We do not live in good, not in God’s world and not in the world of ancient Myth. We ourselves made a hell for ourselves on Earth and do not think of getting out of it.