‘Stolen’ Movie Recap & Ending Explained: Is Robert Dead?

Elle Marja Eira’s directorial debut, Stolen, is a film about environmentalism, industrialization, and indigenous identity. This thriller drama shows the lives of the Sami people, an indigenous ethnicity from northern Norway and Sweden, and their struggles with a world modernizing constantly. Traditionally reindeer herders by profession, these people try to maintain their way of life, which has been subjected to endangerment in recent times. At its core, Stolen depicts an environmentalist theme by showing the sadistic cruelty of humankind against nature. Moreover, through Elsa’s story as a Sami girl, this movie shows xenophobia and ethnocentric discrimination against her people by the non-indigenous communities as well as national authorities. 


Spoilers Ahead

What Is The Plot About?

Elsa is a young Sami girl living with her community in Norrbotten County, Sweden. As the daughter of a reindeer herder, Elsa wants to become a herder as well, which is why her father helps her tame a white reindeer calf she names Nastegallu. Meanwhile, the rest of the herders are facing a crisis when their reindeer are being massacred by an unknown poacher. Even young Elsa’s moment of joy is short-lived when she sees Nastegallu being killed by this poacher. When this poacher spots Elsa hiding in the bushes, he gestures to her to keep silent or he’ll kill her. Elsa’s father, Nils-Johan, takes her to the local police station to make a complaint, but seeing that Elsa is too scared to talk about what she saw, the officer downplays the incident as the reindeer having died by injuring itself on the fence. Elsa’s elder brother, Mattias, suggests that the person responsible for hunting their reindeer is a local man named Robert. However, Robert being friends with the police and also due to a lack of evidence, Elsa’s family cannot make accusations either. The story explores the Sami’s struggles as Robert continues killing their reindeer for sport. 


What Is The Conflict Between The Sami And The Non-Sami People? 

The Sami are the indigenous people of the region, but since the industrial revolution, the national boundaries have expanded, causing the Sami to co-exist amongst the non-Sami people as an ethnic minority. For the development of industry, the people want the government to build mines and lumber mills throughout the Sapmi region. To be fair, the majority of the non-Sami population wants jobs and a better livelihood as well. However, building mines in the region would split the reindeer pasture grounds in half. Moreover, the lichen that grows in this region serves as fodder for the reindeer, but because of deforestation in recent times, there have been fodder shortages during the winter. These factors have been affecting Elsa’s family along with the other Sami folks, and they have also created discord between the Sami and the non-Sami people. 

How Does Robert Defend His Illegal Killing?

Ten years later, Elsa grows up to become a teacher at a local school. She did always want to be a herder like her father but wasn’t allowed to because it’s mostly considered a man’s job. Even now, the reindeer continue to be killed off by Robert. During one such incident, Robert shoots a reindeer. Mattias and Elsa hear the gunshot, and upon finding the deer’s remains, they trail the snowmobile tracks to Robert’s house, where they find blood stains. They’re convinced that this is reindeer blood when they call the police, but when Robert arrives, he makes it seem as though it’s hare blood. As expected, even the police seem to favor people like Robert over the Sami people. Later, at Robert’s house, he lies to the police that it is the Sami people who kill each other’s reindeer and claim theft compensation from the government. He claims that the Sami people are always fighting each other as well. 


The news of this complaint reaches the ears of the council head, who doesn’t like Elsa’s outspoken behavior one bit. The Sami people believe in cooperating with the non-Sami folks for a resolution, but Elsa feels otherwise. She thinks that cooperation isn’t the same as resolution, and only raising a voice against the killing can save their reindeer. 

Why Are Mattias And Lasse Depressed? 

The industrialization of the Sapmi region is affecting the Sami livelihood in many ways. Moreover, the discrimination against them has also affected their mental health. Mattias and his friend Lasse, who is also quite close to Elsa, feel as though they want something else for their lives. They realize that because of the recent circumstances, their traditions as reindeer herders are in jeopardy. As for their livelihood, to Mattias and Lasse, it seems there is no future in reindeer herding any longer. As a result, they’ve been struggling quite a lot. Moreover, Mattias is the son of the head of the family, and he has a lot of responsibilities for which he is not prepared. As a result of his deteriorating mental condition, Lasse takes his own life, further isolating Mattias. 


Why Does Robert Break Into Elsa’s House? 

While patrolling the pastures on her snowmobile, Elsa spots Robert loading reindeer on his truck. She takes a video of him but isn’t able to capture him clearly in the act. Lately, Elsa has been outspoken against Robert’s hunting activities, even though the police aren’t doing anything about him, angering Robert further. Later that night, while Elsa’s parents are away, Robert, in a fit of drunken rage, invades her house. Elsa shuts herself inside the cellar. Robert, unable to get inside, threatens her to keep her mouth shut, or there’ll be consequences. In defense, she tells him that she has already informed the police about him, after which he leaves, fearing arrest. When the police do arrive at Robert’s house, they let him go because they’re unable to find any evidence against him. 

How Does Robert Die? 

Tired of not being able to have Robert arrested, Elsa decides to visit Robert’s lodge the next day to collect evidence. At his house, while Robert is away, Elsa breaks into the outhouse, suspecting the slaughtered reindeer to be there. As expected, she finds a storage unit inside the hut where Robert has stored all the reindeer he killed. However, Robert spots her on his CCTV camera and rides back to his lodge. Elsa rides away on her snowmobile, and Robert gives her a chase. He almost catches up with her, intending to kill her this time, but he crashes into a frozen lake. As the ice starts to give in, Elsa tries saving him but fails to do so, and Robert drowns to death. Following Robert’s death, she reports it to the police, who finally start an investigation only to find that Robert was indeed running a gang indulging in animal cruelty and poaching. 


As Stolen comes to an end, Elsa requests that Mattias go to a psychologist in the city, to which he finally complies. Nils-Johan assures Mattias that they’ll take care of the herd while he’s away. After a harrowing journey, Elsa had finally proven a point: her reindeer were being targeted, and by doing so, she had stood up for her community. 

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Shrey Ashley Philip
Shrey Ashley Philip
A teacher, photographer, linguist, and songwriter, Shrey started out as a Biotechnology graduate, but shifted to studying Japanese. Now he talks about movies, advocates for ADHD awareness, and embraces Albert Camus.

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