Korean director Chan-Wook Park and his team have created an absolutely stunning film, that demonstrates their truly advanced skills at bringing a story to life. With his first language film, Stoker starring Nicole Kidman, Mia Wasikowska, and Matthew Goode premiering at Sundance and wowing audiences, it’s clear that Park’s about to show the US what filmmaking really is. Stoker slowly unravels, revealing one piece of the puzzle at a time, and always having you fully engaged to all that he’s presenting to you. He meddles with perceptions of good and evil, with clever visual styles and characters that will have you wildly fascinated, repulsed, intrigued and completely enchanted by.

The Players:

  • Director: Chan-Wook Park
  • Screenwriter: Wentworth Miller
  • Cinematographer: Chung-Hoon Chung
  • Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, Nicole Kidman, Dermot Mulroney, Jacki Weaver

Sundance Synopsis:

After India Stoker’s father dies in a car accident, her mysterious and handsome uncle Charlie moves in with her and her unstable mother Evelyn. While sensing that her uncle’s motives are sinister, she startlingly begins to become infatuated with him, forming a disturbing rivalry between her and her mother. Time spent with her uncle also leads to the discovery of more haunting details of how her father really died.

The Good:

  • The Acting: Truly amazing performances all around. Mia Wasikowska and Matthew Goode both give wonderfully complex performances, that are equally subtle as they are strong and captivating. Nicole Kidman gives a beautiful performance by playing a tragic character that you’re both sympathetic to and bewildered by. She also gives one hell of a monologue that will not soon be forgotten. And it was lovely to see Jacki Weaver pop in and show us once again why we love her.
  • Lack of Words: Many indie films try to over explain what’s going on and how everyone is feeling. The beauty of this film is that you don’t need many words to understand exactly what’s going on. The film is dense and so packed with visual direction that the words merely add to the story without over explaining it.
  • The Colors: You could pause this film at any moment and you would have a piece of work to hang on your wall. From the stunning uses of lighting and costumes, to the cinematography and the intriguing performances given by all, every detail in the film was beautiful, with purpose and packed with emotion .
  • The Sound: Normally one of the most over-looked but shockingly important aspects of a film. The lead character in this film has a heightened ability to hear things, and the way that they play with this is eery and yet wildly alluring. You can’t take your ears off this film. The use of such fascinating sound design mixed with a beautiful score, keeps your attention on the screen at all times. A pencil sharpener has never been more interesting on screen before.
  • The American Risk: Though this is one of Park’s most tame films, it still has those qualities that we’ve come to expect from him. His films generally are far riskier and more unique than a number of other films in its category. He manages to capture the qualities of his former films, with nods to them, all within an American setting. The story is unique, the film is well made, and I for one can’t wait to see how US audiences relate to his first English language film.  Hopefully it will be the first of many.
  • Everything Matters: Filmmakers add things to a film because they’re “cool” all the time, but they don’t know how to  give those “cool” things meaning. I take the dress that Nicole Kidman wears in the end for my example. It’s stunning, could be out of place, and yet, it’s not. Yes, when she’s posed in from of a window with similar colors, it’s a piece of art, but there’s more to it than that. We see directors adding in dresses or other “cool” things to films all the time and we accept it by saying “well it’s cinema.” Then suddenly a film like this comes along and you understand where those “cool” ideas came from. With Park, those moments are not just placed into the film, they’re a part of it, and a thousand little details were woven into that one moment, the one choice. Therefore the beautiful dress was not just there to look stunning, but it made sense and important for the story. It made the film truly complete and well rounded. Proving that Park is not the imitation, he is what’s cool.

Overall:

Despite my love for a number of the indie filmmakers at Sundance, there’s just no comparing Park’s expertise and keen eye for story-telling. His craft is far superior to others and he demonstrates this by creating a challenging, beautiful, expertly well made film, that is truly an inspiring to any film-maker or film-lover.

Luckily, while at the fest, it received a release date in March 2013, so you don’t have long to wait!

Overall: 9.5/10