stoker

PicMonkey Collage StokerUncle, mother, daughter.

It’s a simple enough tale.

A father (Richard Stoker played in flashback by Dermot Mulroney) dies, leaving his dependent, self-destructive wife (Evelyn Stoker played by a fragile Nicole Kidman) and strangely self-contained daughter — all buttoned-up in Peter Pan collars, with the same style of shoes since birth (India Stoker played by the waif-like Mia Wasikowska) — in mourning.

A long-lost uncle (Charlie Stoker played by the chilling but charming Matthew Goode) decides to overstay; an aunt (Gwendolyn Stoker played by Jackie Weaver) drops by and leaves quickly, obviously nervous about the situation. The mother and uncle strike up a too-friendly relationship. The stalker-friendly uncle and just-18 niece circle each other in a wary, too-sensual manner. There’s a piano duet that’s provocative enough to singe ivory.

All of it’s really designed to unsettle you. Should I be worried that I was fascinated?

What did I like about this movie? Apart from the consistent technical quality?

The mood is painstakingly set with little details of creepiness. A blister bubbling up after being pricked. The sound of a hard-boiled egg cracking as it is rolled on a table. A spider climbing up a teenage girl’s leg and under her skirt. A hanging lamp deliberately set to swinging in an already atmospheric basement, spotlighting a dressmaker’s dummy. A pencil sharpener shaving off blood from the pencil tip.

Chan-wook Park is pretty much a master of the detail, and you tend to get mesmerized with each subtle reveal. If you pay attention closely enough, you can predict certain things… in fact, the back-and-forth storytelling can fool you into a sense of precognition. Your mind leaps to a conclusion because you’ve already been offered a glimpse, but then the director backtracks. You’re given a new detail that lends a different tenor to the scene. So you’re left with an unsettled feeling much like a trick of the eye befuddles the brain, which has to catch up to the stimuli.

The big mystery here is not who Uncle Charlie is, or what happened in the past, but really, as one character asked point-blank, who is India Stoker? The film is about her coming-of-age, her acceptance of her nature and coming-to-grips with loss, and yes, even her sexual awakening (in Elektra fashion, through the uncle/surrogate-father). What happens when a trained hunter’s killing instinct is roused?

Perhaps the movie does not have the dramatic turns that the director is known for — it’s quieter, less brash, but since it is told primarily from the point of view of a watchful India, it’s perfect in that sense.

I like this director because he explores taboo subjects in a thoughtful manner. I like this movie because as a character study, it’s fairly engrossing.

PicMonkey Collage Stoker 2

Advertisements

6 comments

  1. Cherry · · Reply

    I want to like this movie, too. Dropbox! πŸ™‚

  2. Watched it sa cinema πŸ˜› Using my mobile credits (before they expire March 31st). Thanks Globe.

  3. For Apa (https://manilarising.wordpress.com/2013/03/09/the-mainstream-in-park/#comment-237):

    I kinda like that India and Evie weren’t given a “past.” Just as Charlie the younger wasn’t given some trauma that explained his actions — his systematic, well-planned, remorseless actions playing in the dirt after pushing that sandcastle in πŸ˜‰ Kids get jealous. His jealousy is on a whole other level.

    I even like that Richard recognized something in India that made him train her to wait — a controlled predator — before felling some exotic wild animal. I like that she was given an outlet and trained in impulse control. I also like that Evie abhorred this practice, and could not abide the kills that were brought home and displayed as trophies.

    I like that Richard, the little we see of him, bore the brunt of all these fractured souls: his brother, his wife, his daughter. The lack of background gives me room to imagine — why he chose to wed Evie, why he “abandoned” her to tend to his daughter when he saw the latter’s potential, what traits their daughter took from them both.

    I like the similarities and the differences between India and Charlie.

    1. Well this is certainly enlightening. I was probably so used to Park revealing it all in bits and pieces of his films so all the businesses in the shadows of the basement freezer remained in the dark for me. Plus, I was so distracted by Nicole Kidman’s shampoo commercial worthy red orange hair.

      It seemed so simple, but it’s elaborate and sick to the core just as his old films had been.

      Thank you! I enjoyed reading your review. It’s really fun to talk about films, even if the opinion’s pretty much different, and opposite.

      1. Same here. And it was truly beautiful hair πŸ™‚

  4. Apparently, there’s a follow-up: “[Wentworth Miller]’s already penned a prequel to ‘Stoker,’ titled ‘Uncle Charlie,’ and is reportedly working on a screen adaptation of David Wroblewski’s acclaimed novel ‘The Story of Edgar Sawtelle.'”

    Check out http://movies.yahoo.com/blogs/movie-talk/prison-break-star-wentworth-miller-turns-screenwriter-stoker-210155675.html

    Well, that’s interesting, yeah? We’re gonna get to explore Charlie after all. I liked Wentworth Miller’s looks when he was an actor, and his first scriptwriting effort caught me (admittedly, more because of the director, to start with). Kudos. Hopefully the next one gets similar treatment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: