Saturday, August 24, 2013

Introductory Post: Stoker

This is just to try out posting on Blogger. I am not doing an assignment or following any criteria.

I've wanted to discuss (i.e., not review) the movie Stoker, the first English-language film by director Park Chan-wook (of Oldboy fame), since it first became available here in the US back in March. This is one of those movies you want to write an entire paper on using a multitude of formal film disciplines in order to dissect it in its entirety...only I didn't, because this is still technically summer vacation & ain't nobody got time for that.

Rated R for disturbing violent and sexual content.

If you haven't seen it already, you must. The coming-of-age aspect of this story mixes so incredibly well with the mystery/horror/psychological thriller genres that I could simply die from satisfaction. The creepy, multi-faceted characters and their twisted relationships, immersive scenery, a slew of symbolism, the beautifully eerie soundtrack (by composer Clint Mansell), diverse camera shots & angles, extreme colour saturation, stylized storytelling; everything is brilliant and could be analyzed down to the very last detail whilst still blowing your ever-loving mind. It even has Hitchcockian influences, as if it weren't  amazing enough already.

Girlhood v. Womanhood; the shoes as symbols

The writing credits go to Wentworth Miller (yup, the lead actor from Prison Break) who did an astounding job. He even used a pseudonym when submitting the work so that his status would not have an effect on whether it was picked up or not, thereby rendering any preconceptions of him as a writer moot. Miller later revealed that his script was loosely influenced by Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt and, if they are familiar with his general works, the audience can pick out a few similar themes, plot devices, and motifs between the two films. Overall, Miller's screenwriting meshed very well with Park Chan-wook's abilities as a director. There is also the added bonus of performers skilled in the art of taking your breath away, like well-known actress Nicole Kidman, fellow Australian Mia Wasikowska, and proper English gent Matthew Goode.

I personally find the official trailer a bit spoilery, so watch at your own risk!

Because this course has not actually started yet, I will not debate too much over if Stoker is an international film or not. Despite the Korean director and litany of 'foreign-born' performers, everyone onscreen speaks with an American accent. You might think that's fine, they're acting, that is what they were paid to do and America is where the story takes place. Fair enough...I would agree. Note, however, that the entire movie was filmed in the state of Tennessee...yet, it came out in cinemas overseas before becoming available only in select theaters within the U.S. Interestingly, this is a movie by Fox Searchlight Pictures, which also did such titles as Slumdog Millionaire (legitimately though arguably oddly defined as 'a British drama') and Black Swan (an American film that, for some reason, was also only released in select theaters). The question that arises here is whether or not these movies should be considered blockbuster Hollywood films or otherwise. Fox Searchlight Pictures retains distribution rights overseas, but—in certain cases—when it releases major motion pictures to America it seems to change hands with Warner Bros. On IMDB it is listed as UK | USA, but if it was funded by the United Kingdom and came out there first...well, the UK isn't 'here', so it's foreign, right?

I obviously do not know enough about company credits to argue one way or the other. While Fox Searchlight Pictures is credited as Stoker's producing company, so is Indian Paintbrush & Scott Free Productions, making everything all the more tangled. What should matter is if it is a good movie or not, which I beleive it most certainly is.

The Stokers
Left to Right: Evelyn (Kidman), India (Wasikowska), Charles (Goode)

Well, that was my first blog post. If anyone wishes to discuss Stoker further or ask any questions, feel free to leave a comment!

Here are some non-spoilery reviews you might find interesting:


  1. I have much to say about Stoker. It really was not at all what I expected! The performances were pretty amazing, though I was distracted by Nicole Kidman's face (how much work has she had done). There were many fascinating visual details (such as the shoes).

    1. You're right, there were a few thought-provoking twists throughout the film. I told Rachelle I would loan her the DVD (she wants to re-watch it) once I get it back from you - it's a popular item! & yes, it is sad about Kidman. She used to be so naturally beautiful, too. :(