Thursday, November 07, 2013

Film: "Stoker" [2013]

A while ago I saw this English language film directed by that Korean guy who did Old Boy, Lady Vengeance, and Sympathy for Mr Vengeance. His name is Park Chan-wook. It centres on this odd teenage girl, India Stoker (played by Mia Wasikowska) whose father dies just before the start of the film. An only child, she is now alone in a Southern Gothic setting with her unstable mother (played by Nicole Kidman), until the father's brother shows up at the funeral and moves in with them temporarily. Uncle Charlie (played by Matthew Goode (i.e. Ozymandias in the Watchmen film) then proceeds to ingratiate himself with the mother, who seems only too willing to transfer her affections to this man she has never met before (he has been travelling the world as a writer or something). More creepily, Charlie also seems to be developing an interest in India that goes beyond the paternal. An atmosphere of menace develops.

The film boasts an impressive score from that Clint Mansell fellow who does all kewl music scores these days (with Philip Glass making a guest appearance for a piano piece that Charlie and India play together. It probably has good sound too.

I liked this film, but I have reservations about it. As with Old Boy, it centres on a disturbing revelation in the later part of the film. But I found the denouement a bit disappointing. India does turn against Charlie - and yet she seems sufficiently tainted by him to have lost any real moral compass by the film's end. I am not sure either whether the hinted supernatural element (the suggestion that there is something not quite human about India and Charlie, with vampirism implied, not least by their surname) that is advanced and then retreated from is clever misdirection or an annoying tease. But I would not want to let quibbles think that this was a film I did not enjoy. It is a wonderfully atmospheric piece of work, a dark gothic horror film in a domestic setting, in which we are treated to great performances by the film's principals.

Image source

An inuit panda production

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