Film Title: Stalker
Director: Mark O'Connor
Starring: John Connors, Barry Keoghan, Peter Coonan, Stephen Clinch
Running Time: 163 min
Why not just call the thing Citizen Kane and have done with it? By naming his new experimental project for a greatly admired Andrei Tarkovsky film, Mark O’Connor, director of the messy, interesting King of the Travellers , seems to be inviting unhelpful comparisons. There’s more. Stalker also features pigeons named – if my hearing is not wrong – for the directors Jean-Luc Godard and Pier Paolo Pasolini.
We’ll bite. This year’s Stalker is not as good as the one by Tarkovsky; nor is it on a par with any of Godard or Pasolini’s greater films. But it is a very interesting experiment that combines moments of mad brilliance with outbreaks of pretentious tedium in about equal measure.
Stalker is (probably) an angry screed at the current state of the Irish capital. The bulky, charismatic John Connors plays Oliver, a kind of street prophet with psychopathic tendencies. The action properly kicks off when he meets baby-faced Tommy (Barry Keoghan), helps him repel bullies and, ultimately, recruits him to be his Sancho Panza. Tommy’s family is in a bit of a mess and Oliver is going to do something about it.
Everything in Stalker is heightened and energised. Every now and then, as we access Oliver’s point of view, the screen becomes draped in sinister red. The actors fling themselves at the screen with brave abandon. Eoin Macken’s camera joins in the creative agitation.
Obviously, the disorder is part of the aesthetic. It is hardly worth complaining about the indulgent sequence that finds Oliver travelling to the Irish Film Institute to watch his favourite film. This Stalker thrives on chaos.
The miracle is that so much of it works. Connors and Keoghan play together brilliantly. A final violent conflagration fairly strips the enamel from your teeth. It would, however, be nice to see O’Connor deliver a more disciplined script next time. You can only get so far with inspired madness.