Monday, March 4, 2013

Movies: Stoker

What if you could hear things others can not? What if you could see things others do not? What if you have to deal with the sudden death of your beloved father staying with a cold mannered mother? What if suddenly a mysterious uncle whom you have never seen before appears in your home ?

So the mystery thriller "Stoker" starts (imdb). India, a girl who "doesn`t want to be touched - even by her mother -, lives in a fancy mansion in the woods somewhere on the U.S. east coast where the wealthy have their domiciles. She is mourning the loss of her father. Then the inscrutable uncle Charlie appears in her home. Many disturbing incidents follow (the blog doesn`t have spoilers).

After watching the film at New York´s Landmark Sunshine Theater I had the luck to attend a Q&A with the director Chan-wook Park (wikipedia). The maybe most important movie maker in the uprising Korean cinema shared some thoughts about his first U.S. film. Park, who has a reputation for complex and provoking movies, told the audience in the packed cinema theater that there could be different interpretations of his film.

He mentioned that the title refers to Bram Stoker, the author of the novel "Dracula", which started the cult of Vampire stories (wikipedia). Park himself has directed the Vampire movie "Thirst" (imdb). Even that "Stoker" doesn`t mention explicitly those bloodsucking creatures, the plot could be seen as a metaphor for Vampires. At least there are many hints for that albeit very subtile.

"Stoker" also can be seen as coming of age story, Park explained. The camera follows India, who is withdrawn and sometimes aggressive, and displays the blossoming sexuality of the fledging girl. But it is certainly not a typical coming of age.

The movie also can be interpreted as a very special  family film or as a cynical fairy tale about people who behave far outside the boundaries of the common world.

Anyway: "Stoker" is gorgeous. The plot is full of surprises and twists and sometimes provocative, which comes up to the reputation of the Korean director, even that he didn´t write the script this time.  I watched the flick two times to dive deeper into the complex layers of the film. This is highly recommend if you want to catch all the flavors of this masterpiece.

I fell in love with the magic of the camera. Park and his cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung delivered amazing compositions of picture and colors. During the 98 minutes of the film there is a constant flow of surprising & beautiful images. There are a lot of awesome dissolves (wikipedia) Stanley Kubrick could have been proud of. In my opinion belongs Park to a league of visual masters like Lars von Trier and Paul Thomas Anderson.

The cast completed the indulgence of the film (letterstoindia). Mia Wasikowska as India was a screen for the conflicting emotions of the fledging girl who is confronted by a challenging environment.  Btw. it is an interesting idea to call a girl after a subcontinent which is hot, adventurous and full of spicy aromas.
The wonderful Nicole Kidman as the fragile and very restraint mother blended grace and style with chill.
Matthew Goode as the mysterious uncle who almost all the time smiled displayed a vicious charm which underlined his menacing aura.

The soundtrack, which included piano pieces from Philip Glass and an aria from Verdi was a perfect fit. I guess "Stoker" could be the first Oscar contender of the year and is highly recommended.

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