Director – Park Chan-wook
Released – March 2013
It’s always cool to see what a director working outside of the Hollywood system can bring to the industry with their English language debut, usually bringing with them interesting ideas that they have picked up in either the independent circuit or film industry where they perfected their craft, Stoker is one such film, with Park Chan-Wook making the change from Korean cinema to bring us this stylised psychological drama. Not only this, but Stoker also happens to be Wentworth Miller’s debut screenplay, which given the quality of the writing and plot, I’d say he’s doing well.
From the very first scene, you begin to see how unsettling this film is going to be. Park did a great job of producing a sinister atmosphere from seemingly everyday occurrences, such as two people playing the piano, having dinner or playing tennis, you’re on the edge of your seat waiting for something out of the ordinary to happen. Even the moments of humour are not without tension and every time Charlie (Goode) appears on screen this is amplified.
If you’re going into this film expecting it to be as violent or bloody as Park’s previous films, you’ll be a little disappointed, however, I find that having most of the violence happening off-screen actually improved the film. This isn’t to say there aren’t scenes that take a brutal turn and what you picture in your mind is always going to be worse than anything the film-makers can show you. Here is where you can Park’s excellent use of creative camera angles and framing to create not only an effective film but truly a gorgeous one. His keen eye for detail produces an enhanced the mysterious film filled with metaphors that you only pick up on a second viewing.
The three main actors also help to produce an almost overbearing atmosphere, particularly Wasikowska who manages to be convincing as a sheltered 17-year-old with a dark undercurrent. Goode is so perfectly creepy as Charlie. From the very first moment he appears, you can’t help but find him menacing and wanting to uncover what’s going on beneath the surface.
Given that this is Park’s first English language film, I’m quite impressed with both his direction and style, sure in places he perhaps placed aesthetics above narrative, but not to the point where it felt like style-over-substance. This is also a cold film with characters you may find more difficult to root for, one where you will most assuredly have to engage your brain to enjoy.