Sunday, June 16, 2013

Film Roundup: Stoker

Year: 2013 | Directed by: Park Chan Wook | Roundup Rating: B

When you're a fan of Alfred Hitchcock it is easy to point out the many allusions used by Wentworth Miller (the movie's screenwriter) all over Stoker. The closest thing you could do as a viewer is play the name game as to what Hitchcock's film went to a particular scene and when. I don't think there is any thing wrong with paying homage to the master of the macabre, after all everything that he did back then is very much inimitable until today -- simply because  tales of murder would never be out of style even when technologies change and went obsolete. But there is a huge difference between doing something in good taste and bad, and in my opinion Stoker falls in the middle of being bad. I shouldn't be saying this in the first place because this is the Hollywood directorial debut of Park Chan-Wook (OldBoy); the South Korean film director is famous for making unattractive things such as violence, gore and madness into a perfect work of art. So what went wrong with this one?

First off, Mia Wasikowska's acting. She is a talented actress no doubt about that. I like her performances in Restless and Jane Eyre, specially when she is not trying hard to be Tilda Swinton 2.0. Her narration part at the opening exudes tranquility bordering on languid and has carried more of the latter throughout the entire film. India is Wasikowska's gothic Alice in Wonderland and I'm sick of watching her cool, calm and collected when her role needs her to be in psychotic mode. The way I see it, Stoker is about a girl's psychopathic awakening. But I don't expect her to turn into a loose screw all of a sudden because that would be something of an exaggeration. But honest to blog, she is not creepy enough, even when she masturbates on the image of murder or when she stabbed a classmate with a pencil, she stayed with the same stoic expression. Like a singer lacking in conviction and emotion.

The combination of Miller's screenplay and Wasikowska's acting is so lethal that the only thing it produced are sleep inducing moments. I've seen this film thrice and I could no longer keep count the times I gave in to my forty winks.

Although I've been a little bit brash earlier there are things I did liked about Stoker. Park Chan-Wook managed to salvaged some parts of this movie by bringing his unique trademark to the screen. The strong cohesion of Clint Mansell's spine-chilling music, the eeriness of Chung Chung-hoon cinematography, the production design and art direction has accentuated Park's flair for the sinister savagery and his genius as an inscrutable filmmaker. There is also a hint of a promise with the story as it gives us a closer look to the inner-workings of the mind of a (developing) psychopath. How they find murder as a pleasurable act without feeling a bit remorseful about it. At the very least, Stoker could have been a successful character study, it tried moderately but failed to live up to what I expected it to be. It lose its way from all of the Hitchcock premise the writer aims to incorporate. However, I don't think this could be viewed as a failure project for Park Chan-Wook because where the film fails it works in its technical achievements, and there we see his strength in turning something average to look daring and exceptional, well at least on the surface. I'll be watching it again in the hopes of changing my mind, but then again this is what I feel about this movie for now. Let's just wait and see if my outlook changes favorably for Stoker in the future. 

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