Directed by: Park Chan Wook
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Mia Wasikowska, Mathew Goode
Hardcore film fans rave (appropriately so) about Korean director Park Chan Wook’s Revenge trilogy. Those three films, Sympathy for Mr. vengeance, Oldboy, and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance make up one of the greatest trilogy of films ever put on the medium. They are gorgeously shot and the stories are uniquely assembled and rendered. The striking visuals aren’t just cinematic masturbation either. Each color decision, edition choice, and rack focus plays an important role in atmosphere, emotion, and depth of story. Oldboy in particular is groundbreaking and that film alone got the world paying attention to Korean films.
Stoker is Wook’s first western film. The film stars an all English speaking cast and was shot in Nashville, TN. One of the film’s lead actresses, Nicole Kidman probably had something to do with the shoot location as she now calls Nashville home. The film is about a family dealing with the sudden death of the father in a car accident. During the funeral the father’s younger brother arrives in town. There’s something mysterious about him, and mysterious about his relationship with the mother, played by Kidman. Mia Wasikowska plays India the dead man’s daughter. She’s an offbeat sort who keeps to herself most of the time. The film takes many twists and turns as she learns truths about her parents and the uncle she never knew she had.
Stoker is a thriller on the level of a classic Brian De Palma film in the vein of Sisters and even Raising Cane more than Scareface. Kidman is fantastic as always but it’s Wasikowska that owns this movie and is riveting to watch. While this film was made in the United States Wook still managed to maintain his total approach to filmmaking. The presentation including the editing and the cinematography is still in his style making the film feel very Korean while also bringing in that retro De Palma characterization and atmosphere. The film is uneven with a few actors not actually being very good and the whole “School” part of India’s story falling a little flat compared to the rest of the film.
Stoker is a dense film filled with details both in the acted out story and in the visual, both subtle and aggressive. Even a little fly has impact and means so much to this story. There are those scenes that will have people squirming in their seats in a way that only Park Chan Wook can do, no, not due to any gore but simply to situations unexpected and definitely out of the norm. Stoker is a film that simply demands multiple viewings to take in all it has to offer. It will definitely be challenging for many mainstream viewers but those with just a little daring will fall in love with this film. I can already predict this one will end up in my best of the year list. It’s a truly breathtaking and wholly original experience like nothing I’ve seen this year and probably like nothing I’ve seen since I saw Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. It’s not a completely perfect film, but it is still a masterpiece.