Let’s Talk: Park Chan-wook’s Stoker is a Psychological Diabolical Delight


Sometimes the best movies surprise you. I have to admit how underwhelmed the trailer for Stoker made me feel when I saw it late last year. To me, it seemed like the trailer was trying too hard to be edgy and hip. It didn’t do anything for me and I wrote it off…until the elusive WOW buzz from other bloggers, colleagues and acquaintances simmered my curiosity and peaked my interest. I’m glad I rejected my gut reaction and attended the promotional screening for Stoker. During the baron movie weeks ahead, you will want to catch up with Stoker primarily because its the only movie being released that pretty much deserves a  reaction and discussion. One has to put the pieces back together after it ends. You will want to try to find this movie playing at a nearby theater.

 

 

Simple Synopsis: After India’s (Mia Wasikowska) father dies in an auto accident, her Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode), who she never knew existed, comes to live with her and her emotionally unstable mother. Soon after his arrival, she comes to suspect this mysterious, charming man has ulterior motives, but instead of feeling outrage or horror, this friendless girl becomes increasingly infatuated with him. Her mother (Nicole Kidman) is the widowed mother of India who gets involved and in the way of the relationship between India and Charlie.

 

This about sums up the plot because like with many great character study thrillers constructed by an intelligent, styled director is the less you know the better it works out for the viewer. You are engaged with the story and rarely does a moment pass by that doesn’t seem important. Overall, there’s a lot for cinephile’s to enjoy from Stoker from the acting, the story, some one-liners even to the tone, but the strongest element is the spellbinding cinematography! Every shot is carefully crafted to develop a character, set a tone, enhance the story, or build tension. This is the kind of work that deserves Oscars! Mia Wasikowska is blossoming into a talented actress of her age bracket. She knows how to deliver the maturity and complexity into a performances. With her performance, she elevates a movie into a different direction. Stoker isn’t a standard ‘bad-seed’ movie.
South Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook (Oldboy, Thirst) is a master of a grim tone which is fully displayed in Stoker in his American directorial debut. Many movie goers do not expect to follow the path into a more complex story. Watching a movie like Stoker puts a majority of modern Hollywood directors to shame. Reminiscent of an early Hitchcock in his prime, Chan-wook’s relies on the tension, the story, and the actors to bring everything to life!

 

For many people Stoker has become a divisive film including a wide range diversity of thought including critics, bloggers, and fans have chimed in a both negative and positive response! A divided audience brings about some great debate. Put me in the ‘love it’ category! If you’ve seen Stoker, what did you think? Was the ending satisfying? How was the English language American debut from Park Chan-wook? Please let me know your thoughts below.

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About Kenny Miles

Whether something is overlooked by Hollywood or whatever business trend has captured the Entertainment Industry’s attention, Kenny Miles loves to talk about movies (especially the cultural impact of a film). He covers various aspects of movies including specialty genre films, limited release, independent, foreign language, documentary features, and THE much infamous "awards season." Also, he likes to offer his opinion on the business of film, marketing strategy, and branding. He currently resides in Denver, Colorado and is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society critics group. You can follow him on Twitter @kmiles723.

One thought on “Let’s Talk: Park Chan-wook’s Stoker is a Psychological Diabolical Delight

  1. This movie had a grip on me; still does. First, let me say that the idea of incest is something that society can do without; too many hurtful repercussions…but in this movie, I understand it without excusing it or advocating for it.
    I believe that this movie has to do with the ancestral Stoker family of Bram Stoker, author of Dracula. I think it tries to imply that for Bram Stoker to write about vampirism and bring it to “life”… he had to somehow carry that gene in his pool. Recessive gene, but there, like a small kernel, nonetheless. Fast forward to current Stoker situation….India, so far, is the strongest recipient of the compulsive force in this “gene” and Charlie knows it. India, like Charlie, is the outsider in the family; the dangerous one; the sinister one; the one that cannot be touched. You can see the Charlie/India comparison when India discovers the family pictures in her father’s study. Charlie is always standing apart from the group; always sitting on a lower rung of the staircase or DNA ladder compared to Richard. Charlie kills Jonathan since he saw Jonathan as competition (just like the movie documentary on death and the animal kingdom and how sometimes it is normal)..he kills Jonathan not just for Richard’s attention, but to rule the Stoker castle (sand castle)..somehow Charlie is aware of India’s existence since she was born and knows/senses somehow that she is just like him and bonds with her from afar. The gifts of the shoes symbolize that India will also walk in Charlie’s shoes in female form. She will follow in his dark/murderous footsteps.
    India’s father senses this as well, and takes India hunting so she can get her “killing compulsion” under control. (Sometimes you have to do something bad to keep you from doing something worse)…Evie senses this as well but she does not embrace India; on the contrary, she rejects her daughter as a flawed creature that Evie actually fears, and India feels this from her mother. Evie is just driven by selfish sexual instincts; nothing else..and India accuses her of not feeling much pain about her father’s death right after the funeral. All Evie wants is fresh air and ice cream, and India just wants to mourn.
    India immediately, upon seeing Uncle Charlie, knows what he is and what he wants so she tries to keep him from controlling her, since he is older. Charlie sees her as his equal if not his better (maybe that is why he accepts that she will kill him and not Evie and is fine with that)…the spider and the fly….India being the spider. Charlie actually looks at her and smiles right before she shoots him. His last breath is absorbed or taken in by India and she stands up, blood on her face, and looks down at her mother for the first time as her real self…Evie is terrified. India shows she is the predator; shows her the monster inside. But, since Charlie is family, she buries him before she goes out into the world on her own. She takes the garden shears Charlie had and uses it in the murder of the Sheriff. A token from her Uncle.
    When Charlie cooks for the family, I felt that maybe the Steak Tartare that India devours is human meat from killing Mrs. McGarrick and the wine, bottle indicating Charlie is celebrating the year India was born, has blood in it. When India drinks, her eyes light up indicating some kind of epiphany, and now she becomes like Charlie. Just like the bite of the vampire, it changes the recipient. Charlie, her mentor, awakens her to kill, to death, to sex…but India soon cannot be controlled, not even by Charlie. Movie shows how India cannot control her urges with Whip and bites his lip, drawing blood. Again, drawing attention to the Stoker ancestor, vampires and the power of the blood. Charlie knew she would get in trouble in those woods, and was there to introduce her to the rite of passage, of death. India runs down the steep slide as the predator, not like poor little Jonathan…she is, like Charlie said in his letters, the Stoker that deserves the family legacy.
    I think when Charlie opens up to India on the staircase and confesses to killing her father, whom India truly loved and appreciated…that is when India realizes she will eventually kill Charlie…but not yet. She slaps him and he takes it. There is a flashback where she is hunting with Richard and she looks at her father sideways and Richard closes his eyes and barely shakes his head saying no, don’t shoot yet…no India, you cannot kill him now for you are at a disadvantage…top of the stairs and wearing high heels for the first time. India decides to wait. Still, India is very attracted to Charlie and is overjoyed and moved when she reads his letters; realizes that they have such a unique familial bond; only he talks Truth to her…but then, seeing that he was in an institution, disheartens her; disappoints her.

    The piano scene between India and Charlie was spectacular. His playing communicates to her his passion, his knowledge, the true history of the family; her playing sounds younger, lighter, but with a certain bravado…like yeah, I know, I am like you, but watch out Uncle, don’t underestimate me……Charlie smiles next to her because they are communicating without speaking.
    India is bullied in school; she tries to ignore the creep, until Charlie shows up; then she stabs the bully with her Yellow pencil; becomes fascinated by the blood and is drawn to fantasies of Charlie. As India’s flavors are vanilla/chocolate…light and dark mixed together (like humanity)…the color yellow is part of Charlie…the ribbon on the shoe box…the yellow umbrella he offers India knowing it was going to pour, ….yellow flags on the sand castle he built before killing Jonathan..and at the end of the movie, you can see where the red blood of the sheriff falls on the yellow lines of the road….this is India’s gift-box now, the world unfolds for her as she walks in her high heel shoes….when she acknowledges that she is who she is, carries what she carries and cannot/will not help herself, she is free as the wind. Nature vs. nurture. Yellow signifies Earth and Royalty in Korea.
    Uncle Charlie turned out to be the beetle pushing the dung pile, or rock…..that India would look at when hunting with her father. If they would have fled to New York, what a pair of killers they would have made…BUT…although the murder gene is in both of them, India is a bit more advanced and evolved predator…I think India would not kill family, and she doesn’t by sparing her mother,…but she would kill anything or anyone that threatens her and her freedom…like the Sheriff. Effectively fast Mr. Sheriff.
    In conclusion, I think Stoker is a very fine movie; so much symbolism; great acting by all. Love the movie’s soundtrack.

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