Stoker

10 Mar

Director: Park Chan-wook (2013)

stoker-posterAll families have skeletons; secrets and histories we’d rather keep hidden from prying eyes, even if those prying eyes are our family themselves.

Written by Wentworth Miller (Prison Break) and directed by Korean director, Park Chan-wook, in his first foray into English language film, Stoker is a stunning yet disturbing invitation into the secrets that lurk in family history.

When India’s (Mia Wasikowska) father dies in a car accident, she is left in their desolate yet immaculate home with her emotionally unstable mother (Nicole Kidman). That is until Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode) comes to stay. An Uncle Charlie India never knew existed until her father’s funeral. Before long, India begins to have her suspicions about Uncle Charlie, particularly the effect he seems to be having on her mother. But wariness soon gives way to infatuation as India becomes entangled by her uncle’s calming manner and almost omniscient presence in their home.

Stunning to look at, from the opening credits to the flawless costumes and styling to the most beautiful meeting of nature and violence, Stoker is a revelation of cinematography. Symbolic and eerily quiet, Chan-wook presents a film so reaped in artifice and false impressions that, just like India searching for the truth about her uncle, we need to work to figure out who we can trust – if indeed anyone.

What Stoker may lack in the intensity we saw in Old Boy and Chan-wook’s earlier work, it makes up for in mystery and slow burning tension as the veils around the characters slowly fall, to reveal them all at their most twisted and disturbed. It is perhaps this idea that has earned the film a host of comparisons to Hitchcock, where the suspense and psychological thrills are not so much plated up for the viewer, but left hidden in shoeboxes, in trees, behind doors left ajar, for us to find and create.

Stoker finds its strength when we define its title away from the simple Bram Stoker’s Dracula comparisons and look more towards the idea of a stoker, an implement used to fuel the flames of a fire. Mia Wasikowska excels as a young woman between her role as daddy’s girl and her burgeoning sexuality. Matthew Goode serves to meet this unborn sexuality, to stoke it, with his too perfect appearance and the almost otherworldly seductive power he holds over the Stoker women.

Quietly violent and resonating, Stoker is a strikingly affecting film wrapped up as a gothic fairytale and a revelation that has allowed us to see Wentworth Miller emerge as the writer we should all be watching.

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