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