Friday, March 15, 2013

 

Stoker

Stoker Acclaimed South Korean veteran director Park Chan-Wook (박찬욱) is the master mind behind his brilliant, violent, suspensive, mesmerizing, and elegant vengeance trilogy—"Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance" (복수는 나의 것, 2002), "Oldboy" (복수는 나의 것, 2003), and "Lady Vengeance" (친절한 금자씨, 2005). His latest film is his English-language debut: a stylish and captivating, yet less bloody psychological thriller "Stoker" (USA/UK 2012 | 98 min.). Under his impeccable control, the film floats between dreamy fantasy and mysterious reality, with striking visuals and superb performance. Although not as exhilarating as his vengeance trilogy, this film is more engaging and thrilling than Park's previous film "Thirst" (박쥐 2009).

The film's protagonist is an ireful teenager India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska). On her 18th birthday, Indian loses her beloved father Richard Stoker (Dermot Mulroney) to a car accident. At Richard's funeral, a charming and mysterious uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode) shows up. Until that moment, Indian doesn't even know that she has an uncle.

With his own agenda in mind, Charlie decides to stay for a while at the gigantic desolate mansion which Indian shares with her alienated mother Evie (Nicole Kidman). An intriguing and fascinating game beings to be played by these twisted and perplexing characters.

Mia Wasikowska and Matthew Goode in Stoker

While the performance is uniformly solid in the film, Mia Wasikowska stands out as the introspective India, who never smiles once in the entire film. She vividly conveys Indian's complex mind and curious fantasy with little physical movement and few spoken words, but occasionally with some piano play.

Actually, the dialogue is sparse in the film. The story is often told or felt by the lush visual and the thrilling atmosphere.

Although the plot doesn't always make sense, but director Park Chan-Wook's masterful direction makes the film thoroughly engaging. He knows exactly how to make each scene to be intensely suspensive, and he guides viewer's attention to follow his frame closely. In fact, before he started shooting the film, he already completed the storyboard for the entire film—he has the film made already in his mind even before the camera starts to roll.

As a Korean director, Park Chan-Wook is not alone for coming to Hollywood to make an English-language film this year. Couple months ago, another Korean director Kim Jee-woon (김지운) just released "The Last Stand." Is this "Korean directorship" going to be a new trend? I certainly don't mind if it is, especially when more Hollywood films are made by directors like Park Chan-Wook.

"Stoker," a Fox Searchlight Pictures release, opens on Friday, March 15, 2013 at Bay Area theaters.


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