SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW: STOKER

STOKER is part of the Sydney Film Festival and will have it’s final festival screening tomorrow, SUN June 9 at 815pm at Event Cinemas George St – tickets can be purchased HERE. Be sure to check out the entire program for the SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL HERE. Have no fear – if you miss this one at the festival – it will be getting an Australian release to art house cinemas.

Chan-Wook Park, the South Korean director, for me must be one of the greatest living directors plying his craft on this planet today. His rare ability to combine delicate artistic direction, tight scripting, mind boggling narrative, and performance, is a rare talent. With an incredible back catalogue: Joint Security Area, Thirst, the so called Vengeance trilogy: Sympathy for Mr and Lady Vengeance would be enough in itself. But the man also gave us the cinematic masterpiece Old Boy which rivals anything made at any time anywhere. The hallway seen from that last movie is on many cinephiles most loved and perfectly crafted scenes and rightly so, it is a piece of cinematic genius.

 

STOKER starring Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode
STOKER starring Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode

 

So I was keen to see his latest effort last night. Stoker, a curious collaboration as the director himself mentioned last night, an English production, helmed by South Koreans and principally starring Australian actors. There was an air of anticipation for me and many others as we moved into the State Theatre. This would be Park’s first move into Hollywood so I was hopeful that none of this would diminish his impeccable style.

The movie boasts a heavyweight cast: Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode and a brief, but memorable, scene with Jacqui Weaver (see the cast really is Australian!).

The story is quite simply on the surface that of the Stoker family. A mother, father and daughter living in an old Southern plantation style property. Life seems idyllic, serene and above all, quiet. It is a life of privilege filled with hunting trips, tennis games, lawn parties and, of course, the obligatory servants.

 

STOKER starring Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode
STOKER starring Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode

 

This peaceful life is shattered when India’s (Wasikowska) father dies tragically and she and her mother (Kidman) meet his brother Charlie (Goode) at the wake. India has never met this man before, she never even knew that he existed. After a series of strange interactions which Park captures beautifully, mixing in imagery, light, music and profile shots, Charlie comes to live with her and her unstable mother. As they begin to know each other a little better and they both begin questioning his past, India begins to suspect that this mysterious, handsome and charming man is much more than he seems. She suspects ulterior motives and that there is something sinister in his past. Rather than be unnerved India is increasingly drawn closer to him, dogging his steps and increasingly becoming infatuated with him. After a strange but confrontational visit from Aunt Jude (Weaver),  a scene between the principles which is subtle yet powerful, and the disappearance of their housekeeper events move to a completely unforeseen conclusion.

Wentworth Miller (yes the hottie worshipped from Prison Break) and Erin Cressida Wilson must be given credit for their scripting. It is a well crafted narrative which allows the solid and accomplished cast to deliver some fantastic dialogue whilst allowing Park to truly do what he does best.

Coupled with the subtle narrative and tight dialogue all three principles are excellent. Wasikowska is simply superb in her role as India, a very strange and odd girl, who never really fits in anywhere. Be that at home, at school or in the community she seems to hold some secrets of her own. Wasikowksa plays the role effortlessly. Kidman as the deranged and strange mother is perfect for the role. I have to say I am not a big Kidman fan. In Stoker she showed me why she is viewed by some as a great actress. I am still yet to be convinced but she played the part perfectly. Goode balances the female presence and fills the role of Charlie Stoker completely. Perfect casting choices I believe.

 

STOKER starring Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode
STOKER starring Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode

 

Onto Park’s contribution. Would it be too much to say that I believe Park has delivered us a perfect blending of Hitchcock, Lynch and Kubrick with his Stoker. Not merely giving us carbon copies but fusing those influences and in a sense moving them into new territory.

Park talks openly of his visual systems, he works hand in glove with artistic directors on this project Wing Lee and his cinematographers Chung-hoon Chung here.  His directorial choices here are subtle allowing the camera it seems to focus either on the room, an object, a colour, a sound. But always allowing his actors to inhabit the scene with their own performance. The artistry here is simply breath taking. A scene with India combing her Mother’s hair changes to a grass field transitioning seamlessly. Outside imagery are not only filled with colour, sunlight but also the sounds of nature. He gives us beauty but always through the eyes of the unnerving ala Lynch. His love of dialogue would see Hitchcock give a rye smile. Stoker in this regard cannot be faulted.

I could go on an on about this movie. I was transfixed. The movie is by no means perfect but what is simply makes that disappear.

4.5 out of 5.

 

4 and a Half Pops