Written by Wentworth Miller and Erin Cressida Wilson
Directed by Chan-Wook Park
Starring Nicole Kidman, Mia Wasikowski
This was one of the big premieres that everyone wanted to see, mainly because Nicole Kidman was in the house, but also because it is the first English language movie from the reputed Korean film genius, Chan-wook Park. At the end of the screening, the director, a very humble-not weird looking Korean gentleman walked on stage to acknowledge the “only in Sundance” euphoric raves. And I thought to myself, “Wow. And he doesn’t at all look like a twisted sicko for whom human blood is mostly an aesthetic device and who would gratuitously use child murder to save his third act. Just shows how people’s outsides can fool ya.”
So, where do I start?
Okay, to be fair, this is one of those projects for which the word “story” really means the most fungible of excuses on which to hang a lot of hyper stylized visual motifs and camera work. Trying to mask this flaw in the project, the director said “Stoker” is really “more of a dream – a nightmare” than a movie. Couldn’t have said it better myself.
The only problem is, as anyone will tell you who knows me, I hate hearing about other people’s dreams. For most of us, listening to a dream account is like hearing about a scene from a movie that you haven’t seen. It really is just never the same for the hearer as it was for the viewer. Admit it. How many of you would pay money to sit through somebody else’s dream? And when the dream is a fantasy about murdering people in which the movie motif is that the pleasure in murder is like unto sexual pleasure, it’s impossible not to tin
And then, of course, we have the hyper-sensitivity in this cultural moment that we urgently need to do something about societal violence. Are we really supposed to ignore in our mass brooding, projects like this which thoroughly fetishize violence and human blood? It was impossible for me to screen this film and not keep thinking that somewhere out in the darkness a potential Adam Lanza was licking his lips to realize this particular nightmare.
Now, I do not want to see artists bridled because there are sickos out there. But we ought to challenge the creative community to only go into this “killing can be lovely and a rush” place if they have something very good to say that compensates for the sliming. There are hard truths to tell. But there is also vile infection that is better left in spread.
But really, I don’t think the director was trying to realize a dream. Like so many people out there making movies, he just didn’t manage to pull off a cohesive story here. Gotta give him some credit for honesty, because after the screening when everybody had called him a, you know, undeniable genius, one of the audience fawners actually went over the top and told the director he had “out Hitchcocked Hitchcock.” Director Park blushed to his roots and said that his achievement was not even “an inch of the master, Hitchcock.” To which I feel sure the cinema gods snorted, “Thank you.”
In the way that movie messes usually are, the story here is too convoluted to synthesize in any meaningful way. Suffice it to say that this is a movie about a young girl moving deeply into murderous pathology because of the influence of her serial killing uncle to whom the girl and her mother are both weirdly sexually attracted.
The photography and editing are brilliant, and the acting, while highly stylized is good. But the question always has to be asked, “in the service of what is all this talent?” And the answer is, “In the service of a ridiculous piece of slime.”
Pass on Stoker.