I was already a huge fan of Park Chan-wook’s Korean films, so I’ve been eagerly awaiting his English language debut, hoping his incredible style would survive the move to America. And it has. Stoker has Park’s fingerprints all over it, taking place inside a heightened reality filled with operatic flourishes.
India (Wasikowska) has just turned 18. On the day of her birthday her father dies, and at the funeral a mysterious uncle (Matthew Goode) is present. He soon moves in with India and her mother (Kidman) at their opulent home, and for the remainder of the film we watch these three bounce off each other (and a few peripheral characters), as an atmosphere of dread becomes increasingly apparent.
Mia Wasikowska gives her best performance since her role in the HBO series In Treatment, becoming a woman before our eyes as she deals with familial as well as personal revelations. Kidman brings out the dark humour in the script more successfully than her co-stars, provoking laughter with her bewildered expressions. Watching her you can’t help thinking about all that botox, but it suits her character. And while Goode perhaps overplays the crazy-eyes, it fits the extravagant world of Stoker so well I can’t fault him.
Every shot is immaculately framed, and every camera movement is graceful. Park’s attention to detail is apparent in every scene. I was also happy to note he brought with him a wonderfully attentive approach to sound design. Never has a belt sounded so ominous.
Stoker delves into some seriously dark psychological territory, while somehow rising above it. It pulls the impressive trick of making ugly acts seem beautiful, and is the best film I’ve seen all year.