The Stoker

Mikhail Skryabin in THE STOKER (15)

Set in the mid 1990s outside St. Petersburg, The Stoker tells the story of an ethnic Yakut, Major Skryabin, a shell-shocked veteran of the Afghan-Soviet War, who works as a stoker. Living in the incinerator room, the Major shovels coal all day, and fills his spare time writing a novel about a Russian criminal sent into exile in Yakutia in the XIX century, whilst turning a blind eye to his former military comrade-turned-hitman, the Sergeant, who arrives to dispose of bodies. But even our compliant stoker has his limits…

The Stoker is a fascinating, atmospheric, stylistic tour-de-force of idiosyncratic filmmaking. This harsh, disturbing, minimalist, relentlessly evenly-paced, pitch-black comedy/drama gradually and steadily assumes considerable power, as Balabanov deftly teases our expectations, most notably, perhaps, with an ironic jaunty Latin-inflected, electro-folk score which works to perfection.

Distributor: Filmhouse     Certificate: 15

Dir. Aleksey Balabanov, Russia, 2010, 83 min, subtitles

Cast: Mikhail Skryabin, Yuriy Matveev, Aleksandr Mosin

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