India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) just lost his father Richard (Dermot Mulroney) in an accident. At the funeral, a man called Charlie (Matthew Goode), her estranged uncle come to live with India and her unstable mother Evelyn (Nicole Kidman). In their solitude, tranquil family estate, India begin to unravel the mystery surrounding the charming man, discovering his ulterior motive, and yet become more facinated and infatuated by his presence.
I remember the film made a very short screening time in one of the movie theater chain. But i missed it because i was not a frequent goer to that particular theater. Anyway, i finally got my hand on the film and did not know what to expect at all. Unprepared. I am not familiar with Park Chan-wook previous directorial works (i can still count the number of Korean films i’ve seen with the fingers on my two hands), so i really went into it without any frame of reference at all. And be warned for possible spoilers, i’m trying not to dwell to much into it so i won’t reveal the plot though…
Stoker may revolve around family. But this is not your everyday, cookie-cutter family. Ever since the beginning you know the Stoker family has their secrets, each and everyone of them. And as layers upon layers of normalcy peeled off from their stoic, distant facade, you know the darkness behind each and everyone of them. Almost every relationships between the characters has something to tell you. It’s intricately woven mysteries that’s delicious as it unravel. I found myself heavily drawn by the relationship of India and her mother Evelyn, perhaps an overblown interpretation of jealousy between mother and daughter. The tale of Stoker resounding more strongly when you seek for its psychological notion. The story bravely highlight dark family history and the twisted relationship amongst its member, it’s obscure take on violence, obsession, possessiveness, and sexuality. I feel there’s a little bildungsroman, coming-of-age element to it when it came to India as well. Each character are portrayed by the amazing principal casts, I love Mia Wasikowska’s aloofness and awkwardness as India.
Stoker mesmerizes me just from its gorgeous cinematography alone. But the film obvious stylistic choice does not overwhelmed it content. You can see from the earliest opening scene where we follow India as she play among grass and trees, and her posture was mimicking a sculpture or when she expresses her grieves from breaking the shell of a hard-boiled egg. Heavy symbolism are featured not as an artistic choice, but to enhance the story telling of the film. With such strong visual, it only made sense when a creative sound design was introduced into the film. Loud noise coming from everyday objects that usually made minute sounds intensify the eerie, unsettling atmosphere of the film. Everything ties up and giving a unique experience of the world of Stoker.
There’s one controversial scene that everybody talked about after the watching the film (though it might have been censored when it was shown in local cinema). But for me, the most mesmerizing part of Stoker was during one night, when all the lead character are doing their own thing separately, yet it was shown in cross-cuts. The cut actually created this allusion as if between India, Evelyn, and Charlie seemed like sharing an activity together. It was just beautifully done and embedded its mark deeply in my brain.
Wentworth Miller the screenwriter of the film admits a Hitchcockian influence when writing the script for Stoker as well as its prequel ‘Uncle Charlie’. These influence are mostly come from ‘Shadow of a Doubt’, a 1943 Hitchcock psychological thriller which has the same likeable criminal element as well as the same name for the character (‘Uncle Charlie’). Perhaps, Hitchcock significant use of staircase where pivotal scene often occurs also adapted in Stoker, where India and Charlie finally come clean and let the truths resurface. I really like the script, though i did not know how much of the film is derived from the script and whether the additional depth came from Park Chan-wook directorial skill and style, but i’m actually looking forward for more scripts by Miller.
“My ears hear what others cannot hear; small faraway things people cannot normally see are visible to me. These senses are the fruits of a lifetime of longing, longing to be rescued, to be completed. Just as the skirt needs the wind to billow, I’m not formed by things that are of myself alone. I wear my father’s belt tied around my mother’s blouse, and shoes which are from my uncle. This is me. Just as a flower does not choose its color, we are not responsible for what we have come to be. Only once you realize this do you become free, and to become adult is to become free.”
―India Stoker. Stoker 2013
A dark, unapologetic, and disturbing tale of secrets in families interspersed with sexual awakening and coming-of-age elements, made Stoker a delicious cinematic feat for me. The substance of the film was enhance by its style, making it a visual treat as well as thought-provoking piece. One scene in particular might have scarred me for life, but even without it, Stoker is unforgettable in the most positive way possible.
PS: some sources mention about Uncle Charlie script, which was a direct prequel for Stoker. I have no idea whether it’s an ongoing project or whether it’s just an untouch script. I kinda obsessing over it right now…
GENRE Drama, Thriller
DIRECTOR Park Chan-wook | PRODUCER Ridley Scott, Tony Scott, Michael Costigan | WRITER Wentworth Miller | MUSIC Clint Mansell | CINEMATOGRAPHER Chung chung-hoon | EDITOR Nicolas De Toth | STUDIO Scott Free Productions, Indian Paintbrush | DISTRIBUTOR Fox Searchlight Pictures | COUNTRY United States, United Kingdom | BUDGET $12 million | RUNNING TIME 99 minutes | RATING R for disturbing violent and sexual content | RELEASE January 20, 2013 (Sundance), March 1, 2013
STARRING Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode, Dermot Mulorney, Lucas Till, Jackie Weaver