Directed by Chan-wook Park, the genius who also brought us Oldboy, Stoker is a teasingly exquisite thriller which marks Park as a 21st century director with an adroit eye. Released last year, the film is a vivid piece of filmmaking that is unlikely to be forgotten.
After arguably disappointing in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, Mia Wasikowska was a surprising casting for a character with such personal depth and internal collisional confusion. It cannot be denied, however, that Wasikowska delivered in every aspect as the character of India, offering a remarkable and equally troubling performance. Wasikowska skilfully possesses a staggering amount of presence in the most absent of times with a complex character with bounds of enigma. A particular highlight of Wasikowska’s performance of the film is that shower scene. The juxtaposition of violence and sexual pleasure overlaps, and Wasikowska vividly acts in this scene as a young woman battling with her constrained desires as a result of her claustrophobic family. Wasikowska’s performance can be seen as a sexual rite of passage; India is at constant war with her erotic demands until she becomes self-assured with her sexuality and herself. India begins as a timid girl that lusts after her uncle and then becomes a capable and assertive woman.
The familial structure of the film is curiously captivating. The character of Evelyn, portrayed by the outstanding Nicole Kidman, is an ever-changing and lustful one. Although with little to say, Kidman has an astounding amount of presence and her internal battle with sexual desires and social morality is prevalent in the narrative. The Freudian characterisation of the family is approached fearlessly and disturbingly deliciously. The seductive Charles, played by Matthew Goode, upholds an enticing aura that creates varietal perplexing outcomes and adds a whole other dimension to the loveable criminal prominent in the film noir cinematic movement. Full of binary oppositions, the family and characterisation in Stoker creates bemusing and powerful effects.
Aside from performances, Chan-wook Park’s vision exists in the film with so much weight that it is impossible not to see his art behind the form. The ingenious use of sharp sound encapsulates the film in an orb of masterful intricacy. India’s extraordinary ability to hear the quietest of sounds creates an unusual delicacy that constructs Stoker as an intimate piece of art that manages to capture the everyday sounds we fail to notice and reconstruct it poetically.
Stoker deserves to be watched in Blu-Ray and nothing less. The vibrancy of its colour palette is stunning and the deep reds and electrifying emeralds that characterise Stoker‘s aesthetics make this film a collection of exquisite paintings. Every shot has had the upmost creative indulgence and each scene has so much visual and symbolic depth. The editing of these scenes is also outstanding and adds to the unity of juxtapositions that Park explores throughout. Life and death, pleasure and violence, innocence and crime.
Chan-wook Park is omnipresent in Stoker, and his exploration of, particularly, maturity and sex can be studied in all aspects of the film, through its visuals, motifs, costume (significantly the use of shoes and the feminine fetish that follows this), sound, editing, cinematography. The list is endless. Although quite obviously drawing a lot of inspiration from the character of Uncle Charlie in Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt (1943) as well as intertextualising other films (1976’s Carrie), Stoker has found its unique place in the history of film and is one of the most underrated pieces of art in the 21st century.
Stoker (2013), directed by Park Chan-Wook, is released on Blu-Ray and DVD in the UK by Twentieth Century Fox, Certificate 18.