Saturday, April 20, 2013

Stoker

This is another one I did a while back -- about one and a half months ago.

Stoker is a movie for literary critics. That is the best way to explain it. If someone were to ask me if I liked it, I would have to answer in a way similar to when someone asks me if I liked Avengers, which goes a little something like this: "I hated it. I fucking hated it. It was so terrible that to this day it keeps me up at night. But you might like it." To me, Stoker is this in reverse. I loved it, but you might not like it.

Like I said, it is a movie for literary critics, and the first way in which that applies is that literary critics don't usually like what most people like. Sometimes they like what everybody hates, but I think the former occurs more often than the latter. "Things that are popular are usually not good." I could be wrong though.

Anyway, there's just not enough in here to be well-liked amongst a mainstream audience. the story is nothing amazing, nor the characters, nor the actors playing them apart from Nicole Kidman, whom I finally understand as deserving every bit of praise she's ever received. There are also no particularly moving scenes of drama, the "thriller" scenes are only somewhat thrilling, and certainly not enough romance to pull fans of that genre. The most accurate way to describe the story is "coming-of-age" but again, there is not much market for that in the movie industry. The literary industr however...

The last word I'll say on the subject of this movie's subject is this: If you've ever found yourself reading a novel for nothing than its symbols and motifs, I have found you a movie.

Full disclosure: Stoker was directed by 박찬욱 of Oldboy fame and director of one of my favorite movies, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. I kinda knew going into this that I would at least like it, but after watching it, it's hard to recommend it, but I'll try.

As I keep repeating, it's a literary-type movie, but it utilizes the medium of film to write a novel. Imagine for a second you're reading a novel and the line is something like, "The mother was thinking of the father and daughter hunting together." It will be painfully straightforward and a little boring to read. However, in Stoker, while the mother's hair is being brushed, it slowly transforms into the long grass where the father and daughter can be seen hunting together. Visually, I can assure you, it was very satisfying to watch, but more importantly, it used film to the best of its ability. There are numerous example of this, of blending different imagery and sounds to blur the lines between what's happening to the character and what's on that character's mind, but the hair one was my favorite.

Sound, as well, was heavily played with in this movie. In one scene, the daughter is sipping a glass of wine, and the volume on it is turned up so loud you can hear her breath in the glass. I'm not entirely sure what it should signify, but I knew that she was drinking the most important glass of wine in the world.

In an opening scene, two characters are standing on stairs and one remarks to the other that she feels insecure/afraid/disadvantaged/I-don't-remember-the-exact-word-he-used because he was higher on the staircase than her. Now, I don't presume to be a literary critic or even a film critic, or even a functional member of society, but from there on out, I paid very close attention to how high people were in relation to one another. The uncle's room was on a floor higher than everyone else, and when they needed to see him, they had to climb stairs to do it. I loved that whenever people wanted the daughter to leave the room, they sent her to the basement, the lowest place in the house. There's a scene of sexual assault, and I'm sure you could already guess that the victim was underneath the assailant. Prior to that, when she felt more comfortable with him, she stood on playground equipment high above him. Before rape can occur someone comes to save the girl, and the protector is directly above the rapist as he kills him. All deliberate.

I'm sure this isn't the first movie to employ such tactics, but it purposefully drew the audience's attention to it and thus made literary critics of us all. The movie actually improved the audience's ability to watch it. I'll give you one final example that I hope everyone who saw it noticed. Remember when I was talking about the hair turning into the grass and the father and daughter hunting together? Well, these two had a very close relationship, and regardless of whether or not it really happened or if it was just in the mother's imagination of how it happened, I believe it's significant and underscores their close relationship that the only scene with the father and daughter together has them lying in the grass holding their rifles and aiming. In other words, they were at exactly the same height 100% of the time they were together.

This is all I have time for today, but I'll say this one final thing. The theme of this movie is "waiting" -- waiting to grow up, waiting for the perfect opportunity, waiting in the way that a spider catches a fly.
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