In his first English-language feature film, director Park Chan-Wook, the mastermind behind the internationally acclaimed “Oldboy” and The “Vengeance” Trilogy, channels Alfred Hitchcock in the gorgeously realized psychological thriller “Stoker.”
The film follows India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) and her enigmatic uncle, Charlie (Mathew Goode), who moves in after India’s father dies in an accident. Though initially suspicious of her uncle, India and her emotionally unstable mother (Nicole Kidman) find themselves drawn to him, and the Stoker family’s mysteries begin to unravel.
Though the story displays clear influences from its predecessors, such as Hitchcock’s “Shadow of a Doubt,” Park’s brilliant storytelling makes the thriller uniquely enthralling. Widely known for his immaculate framing and unconventional cinematographic techniques, the director builds a steady pace early on and continues to pile on the suspense with each twist and turn.
The use of shots, for example, highlights India’s
gradual evolution. Initially, Park almost exclusively uses short, close-up shots to capture the shy, melancholy girl introduced at the beginning of the film. As the story progresses and Uncle Charlie’s presence begins to affect India, the shots become longer and more distant, suggesting a shift in her personality. Park’s attention to the most minute details makes the story’s pacing burst with energy.
The film’s atmosphere is perfect as well — the dark, Gothic Midwest setting contributes to the allure of the film as much as Park’s cinematography. The subtle contrast between India’s black-and-white shoes and the aging mansion’s emerald hue helps establish “Stoker’s” eerie world. Simply put, the set is stunning.
Sound also plays an essential role in establishing the mood. A highly aural experience, “Stoker” uses a beautiful mix of classical, jazz and blues music to immerse the audience completely in a Gothic wonderland. The relatively sparse dialogue is often replaced by the more affecting sound of music. One of the most provocative scenes between India and Uncle Charlie involves no dialogue. Instead, their passion is expressed through a manic, collaborative piano performance.
Praise must also be given to the actors for flawlessly portraying these complex characters. Wasikowska, in particular, sheds her “Alice in Wonderland” image to take on the female lead. With a ghostly beauty, she shines in the foreboding environment. Displaying a sense of silent authority, she perfectly captures India’s transformation.
Goode is also remarkable as Uncle Charlie. Cloaked with an aura of charm and mystery, there is something magnetic about his portrayal. The leads’ abilities to play off one another gives life to Park’s storytelling.
Beautiful, shocking and absolutely enticing, “Stoker” is an incredible film fortunate enough to have such a talented director and cast. This modern Hitchcockian fairy tale has all the qualities required to make a good thriller. Be prepared to enter the world of the Stoker family and find yourself falling deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole.
A version of this article was published in the Thursday, Feb. 28 print edition. Bob Teoh is a staff writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Weekend Roam: Little Germany
- WSN Editorial Board reflects on spring semester events
- Strawberry Festival promises delicious, intergalactic fun
- Clive Davis Institute collaborates with DJ Swivel
- Best places to dine on dumplings
- 'Heroes' is not super enough for Xbox Live film program launch
- NYU SLAM sees victory through 'badidas' campaign
- Victoria Ettore elected student council president
- Hester Street Fair hosts diverse vendors, delicious food