Korean Films In Review: Stoker
‘Stoker’ is Park Chan-wook’s debut into the world of English language film, and with it he has already established himself as a serious contender for turning his career to international eyes.
‘Stoker’ revolves around the Stoker family after the sudden death of the father figure, Richard Stoker. During the funeral, India, the daughter, is disturbed by a presence later revealed to be her Uncle Charlie, and the film concerns itself with the relationships between Charlie, India and Evelyn (India’s mother), and how they evolve and interact with each other.
The result is a darkly seductive, twisted tale of family drama that is beautifully framed and shot with impeccable skill.
The language change is not the only noticeable difference between this film and those that Park Chan-wook has previously released; ‘Stoker’ is a lot less extreme in almost every way. The sexual scenes, as well as the violent ones and even the scenes where those two themes combine were very tame compared to what viewers may have expected based on films such as ‘Old Boy’ or ‘Thirst’. It was almost as if the reigns had been pulled tight and were never given much slack. Having said that, the lack of extreme behaviour on-screen was not enough to alter the overall feel of the film.
The film was relatively slow to start, and the second half definitely sees the characters more animated, yet the first half still holds enough mystery and poses enough questions to grab hold of the audience and refuses to let
them go. The mystery of what will become of these characters and how it will happen, as well as the mystery that already shrouds them is abundant throughout the film. There are many scenes where the atmosphere was so enigmatic and tense that I could hear my own heart beating in my chest. The mystery is handled with the utmost elegance and presented in an unpredictable and enjoyable manner.
The deeply Gothic in style, nightmarish fairy-tale of subtle sexiness, contorting values and unimaginable personal drama may be shot in the English language, but the film still drips with the essence that makes a Park Chan-wook film. The stylised editing of image matching (there is a flawless scene that plays with the image of a swinging light in the basement casting shadows on the faces of the characters in a different room above), the blood covered wildflowers and even the tones of the colour schemes will satisfy even the most hard-core of Chan-Wook fans.
‘Stoker’’s portrayal of family drama is yet more proof that you don’t need a huge blockbuster budget, expensive CGI animations or even recognisable locations in order to make a successful or thought-provoking film – all you need is the ability to tell a story in a compelling way, that captures the immediate attention of the audience and stays with them long after the final credits have rolled.
‘Stoker’ is an almost flawless film and an instant classic that raises many questions that don’t have simple answers. Park Chan-Wook has commented in previous interviews that he is not the kind of director who aims to send a message, but if he had to give one for ‘Stoker´ it would be: “In knowing yourself, you can liberate yourself”.
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