User Reviews (8)

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  • A charcoal burner, ex-soldier in Afghanistan, writes stories about "bad people". Meanwhile, he gets the occasional visit from his daughter, who sometimes asks for money, and gangsters, who use his ovens.

    I am a fan of the work of Balabanov and I liked this film too, despite reading negative reactions everywhere. But this is how I like to see cinema: full dry, dark humor. There are also virtually no clichés in this portrait of St. Petersburg in the nineties. It is a portrait of amazement of someone who was there (in fact, Balabanov's Brat was filmed in 1997 in St. Peterburg). Remarkable characters probably symbolize this period, like the free-spirited daughter; the ever silent 'Bizon'; the charcoal-burner; the rude Masha; the sergeant who likes prose.

    Too bad that the story as flat as a dime but I'll take that happily in exchange for the artistry. Balabanov is a really a film artist (actually was, unfortunately, he died two years ago). It's in everything, in a creaky elevator, the constantly sounding music (sometimes right through dialogues), the heaters, the theatrical way of talking, the walks through the snow.

    Despite his artistry, he is always wonderfully unpretentious about the 'meaning' of his films. The heaters have no symbolic value, he explained. They are only there because "Every film should have its own style." This film is also not specifically about Yakuts but actor Mikhail Skryabin was one by coincidence so Balabanov used that theme. It is a cinematic portrait of a bizarre period, without opinions, so therefore it lacks a moral.

    Probably not everyone's cup of tea, but it certainly is mine. It really is a shame that this artist will never make a new film anymore.
  • Yes, a good movie: good picture, good (very good) camera, good acting of the fireman that is in the cast of cargo 200 too; other actors are "street real" and they are great for what they have to do. The music is perfect, and the 90's Russia atmosphere is almost in every frame of this movie. If you love Russian atmosphere, gangster, shooting, action this is the film for you: this film shows something that nobody wants to remember but you have to watch other films of this great director and study a bit of history (maybe even go to little Odessa and have a talk with someone) if you want to appreciate it all. It is not the story that makes the point is everything around it, that is why i love Balabanov. Great work Mr. Balabanov Sorry for my bad English Greetings from Italy.
  • If you're the type to dichotomize everything under the sun, then movies come in two flavors for you: 'big' films and 'small' films. Big films attempt to heartily fill our appetite for big stories like they're stews, with lots of ingredients. Small films tell small stories and are generally small in scope; sometimes they have high aesthetic value like some fancy decorated garnish thing from a $$$$ restaurant - or are laden with lowbrow goodness, like awesome curly fries at a truckstop diner.

    This is a small film. It's slow-paced, with only a handful of characters who more or less know each other. Even the city feels like a small town, the way it's been shot. There are no real surprises or major plot twists - you ought to have realized it's a "tragedy" from the atmosphere that pervades the entire film (in case you weren't yet clued in by the fact that it's late-era Balabanov here, and every film of his since Cargo 200 can be described as a huge downer). And it's also a period piece - people really lived and behaved like this, believe it or not. So the only sense of time and history here is from the war stories the characters tell one another.

    The matter of factness with which the utter lack of morality in all the characters is presented will definitely put people off, and many nationalists have expressed outright anger at how their dear Russia and its good citizens are being smeared by this director's cynical, unredeemable worldview. "These people are despicable and there's nothing to relate to!" Well, duh. You shouldn't be able to relate to grimy, unscrupulous gangsters for whom everyone is meat to be used and life has no intrinsic value.

    Yes, it features violence and nudity. Neither seem out of place, and it certainly doesn't seem like there's any room in this vision for cheap titillation - surely there must be a deeper reason why this director chose to introduce the Stoker's daughter fully nude in her apartment other than just wanting to film her naked and wanting us to see her naked form! If you've seen the movie, think about it! If you haven't...bleh, no spoilers.

    It's not a great film. It's too slow, the plot is too thin, and the characters are too nasty to make this an enjoyable viewing experience for most viewers. It's hard to think about and digest properly, shot by shot. The main question people seem to ask upon viewing is, "what did I get out of this by watching it?" The implication is that films should be made either to educate or to entertain, and the Stoker does neither. Perhaps what Balabanov wants to suggest here is that gangsterism - despite all the Scarfaces and the Godfathers of the world - is a banal existence devoid of anything entertaining or educational, and we shouldn't expect anything redeeming from that ilk, since they're not exotic creatures to be studied but rather small, cruel men to be hauled off to prison and forgotten.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    An intriguing but ultimately slight drama about murder and revenge from Russian director Aleksey Balabanov (Morphia, etc). Ivan Skriabin (Mikhail Skryabin) is a former soldier and decorated war hero, and veteran of the campaign in Afghanistan. After suffering concussion following a bomb blast, he now ekes out an existence by working as a stoker, keeping the massive furnaces burning in a sprawling industrial complex. He is also writing a novel on a battered old typewriter. But local gangsters, working for a man known as Sergeant, also occasionally use the furnaces to dispose of bodies. Skriabin is a passive witness to their activities, until his own daughter Sasha becomes a victim and he seeks revenge on her killers. Balabanov gives us a glimpse into a darker underbelly of a contemporary St Petersberg, a venal and corrupt city where wealthy gangsters now wield power and where old soldiers are yesterday's heroes. The performances from the largely unknown cast are quite good, and theatre veteran Skryabin brings a touching and suitably haunted edge to his performance. Balabanov's script is sparse and peppered with touches of wry humour, and his signature violence is again unexpected and shocking. Balabanov's regular cinematographer Aleksandr Simonov captures some wonderful images of the snow covered city scape, while DiDiuLia's jaunty music score offers a counterpoint to the violence that follows.
  • The best movie from Balabanov with perfectly matching music from Didyulya. It's not a surprise that its special rhythm, language and symbols are not accepted by everyone. Actually it was shot in Kronstadt. Although it's not far from Saint Petersburg, it's style is still somewhat different.
  • helobat1 February 2011
    One of my most favourite movies is Brat by Balabanov. Thus, having read somewhere that Russian movie critics called Kochegar the best Russian movie of 2010, and its plot is quite similar to that of Brat, I was expecting something at least as good. I was wrong. Comparing these two movies, I should say that when watching Brat, I have a feeling of seeing truth. Watching Kochegar, I feel seeing artificial people in artificial situations. Apparently, Mr. Balabanov forgot that a good movie should teach, should send some message. This movie just shows the very dark and vicious sides of life without any message. Just blunt murder and blunt nudity. Something is wrong - either with Russia, or with Balabanov, or with me.
  • "A Stoker" is one of the last films of Aleksey Balabanov, the cult director of the new Russian cinema. The story of the revenge of a small man, a former major, who is brilliantly played by unprofessional Yakut actor Mikhail Skryabin.
  • The movie had interesting scenes, characters and good cinematography but ... everything was ruined by the painful music that distracted from the beginning to the end, or my end. It felt like torture. I couldn't watch more than 20 minutes. Terrible.