about the weirdest (and awesomest!) movie i have seen lately is park chan wook’s ‘stoker‘. upon my first viewing i was so blown away at what was happening on screen that i had to run and grab a notebook. i then proceeded to fill an entire page with small, barely legible notes such as: ‘little red riding hood theme’, ‘prison break dude!’, ‘obvious cool or obvious perplexing?’, ‘belt fetish’, ‘man savior & blood pencil’, ‘rituals’ and ‘neon fries!!!’.
i just had to write more on these observations and apologize in advance for providing such an ambiguous review of the movie but i honestly think the less you know going in, the better. in fact, i saw the trailer for ‘stoker’ the other night before ‘twixt‘ (i’ll be writing about it soon too!!) and was so glad i had seen the film first- the trailer gives way too much away!
so the following is just a small sampling of my scribbles but i felt they were the most interesting elements to expound upon. here we go -
first off, ‘prison break dude!’. while taking in the very beautiful opening credits i snorted incredulously when i saw wentworth miller was credited for the screenplay. call me biased but i have always thought of him as a meat head / channing tatum type. now now, i know y’all love channing tatum and i will give him props as a decent enough actor but he does zilch for me otherwise. i just can’t help but think of him as a big ol’ meat head, sorry. it’s the same for me with wentworth. so imagine my surprise after learning that he earned himself a degree in english literature at princeton prior to his PB stint and decided to try his hand at writing once PB wrapped. huh. ok. moving on …
‘little red riding hood theme’ was a note based solely on the style of the opening credits which were comprised of illustrations (just like in the picture above) unfolding over live scenes. we see the main character, india stoker, running around outdoors with these lovely but dark and slightly ominous illustrations highlighting the nature- or taking it further, wild things- in each scene. india appears to us as an innocent and searching figure while there is implied malevolence hovering just out of sight. it definitely brought to mind the story of little red riding hood and later on we see that india’s story is indeed one of innocence lost after encountering a ‘big bad wolf’ … but just who is the big bad wolf in this story?? i might argue it’s not the most obvious answer.
‘obvious cool or obvious perplexing?’ is my next note and i have to say it was difficult for me to judge the tone of the film during that first viewing. things that made me wince or guffaw were suddenly serious or simply curious when seen a second time. truth is, i may have been a bit tipsy when i watched the first time (shhhhh!) but the main characters- india, mother evie and uncle charlie- come from a totally foreign world and their characters are a bit hard to get a handle on at first. maybe at all. the ‘obvious cool’ note is in reference to the fact that the stoker’s are blindingly rich and live their lives accordingly, like it ain’t no thang. taking everything in from their home and cars to their wardrobes and behaviors, one begins to feel like the film is taking place in another world, one possibly dreamed up by miuccia prada or stella mccartney. so there is tons of obvious cool but it makes for some perplexity for those of us not living in a designer look book. i don’t actually know any blindingly rich people but i have always assumed that their reality has to be a bit disconnected from (assumingly) yours and (definitely) mine so i guess everything makes sense within that context.
‘belt fetish’ became a note after maybe the fourth close-up on / reference to india’s father’s belt. don’t worry, there is no child abuse via belt here but there is something going on. my theory beyond the obvious uses for a belt is that it’s a metaphor for both india and charlie’s restricted lives, and represents both their breaking out of those restrictions and then ‘belting’ things back in on their terms.
‘man savior & blood pencil’ refers to one particular scene that didn’t end up playing out the way i expected it to. in fact, i might even say this particular scene is a major tipping point in the film wherein we see india’s initial inkling of who she is. i might even argue the ‘blood pencil’ with it’s phallic shape and spot of blood in a way represents a sort of loss of virginity for india, an awakening of feelings and a realization of power, neither of which she was aware of before the incident.
‘rituals’ comes in to play in more than a few scenes but became a note after the second or third time we see india recollecting hunting trips with her father. the characters all lead such restricted and regimented lives that it all begins to feel a bit ritualistic after a while. they all yearn to destroy their rituals but don’t know how, especially in the case of evie.
finally, we have ‘neon fries!!!!’. this is mostly just me being a nerd and geeking out over a neon french fry sign that you see for all of two seconds. oh the power of my junk food fetish! still, i would argue that in a teeny way the neon french fry sign and the locale it appears in represent a reality that india is not privy to which serves to drive home just how isolated and naive she is.
i fell hard for stoker after that second viewing. sure there are a few awkwardly written scenes here and there that don’t make much sense but they’re minimal and overshadowed by all the otherwise amazing elements. i mean i was intrigued enough to sit through the whole thing a second time if that tells you anything.
overall you have great performances from nicole kidman, mia wasikowska and matthew goode, an original story and impeccably gorgeous scene styling and cinematography. i dunno about you, but that’s all i really need in a film.
oh but the soundtrack is great too! notable is a scene whose mood is absolutely set by nancy sinatra and lee hazelwood’s dreamy and ominous ‘summer wine‘ playing in the background.
so there you have it- are you totally confused yet?? either way, definitely see ‘stoker’ asap!