EXCLUSIVE: Master Of Suspense Park Chan-Wook Talks 'Stoker' In Video And Q&A
Park Chan-wook's reverence for Alfred Hitchcock and David Lynch shines through in his English-language debut, Stoker. It's a tightly wound thriller with psychosexual undertones and shocking — yet artful — violence in which, it seems, no detail is accidental and the details, both visual and auditory, add up to a lavish cinematic experience.
Stoker chronicles the macabre coming of age of 18-year-old India (Mia Wasikowska) when her father is killed on her 18th birthday and her handsome but creepy Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode) comes to stay with her and her emotionally remote mother Evie (Nicole Kidman). On the eve of the film's March 1 U.S. opening, I spoke to Park about his vision for the film, the alterations he made to Wentworth Miller's white-knuckle script and the film's connection to his 2009 vampire movie Thirst, even though, despite its title, Stoker has nothing to do with the undead or the supernatural.
The soft-spoken filmmaker also told me why he doesn't want to see Spike Lee's take on Oldboy until it's released weighed in on the movie violence debate that erupted in the wake of the Newtown shootings.
But wait, that's not all! Preceding the interview is an exclusive featurette, courtesy of Fox Searchlight, in which Park and his cast discuss the movie. Enjoy.
Movieline: This is your first English-language film, and it's set in America. I’d love to know if you wanted make any kind of a statement about American culture in Stoker.
Park: Although Wentworth was obviously influenced by Shadow of a Doubt, the first American film that Hitchcock made, it’s not a commentary on American society at all. What attracted me to the script was that the story deals with the very universal idea of this family relationship. It doesn’t matter what country you’re from, you’ll be able to relate to and enjoy this film.
You have said that Hitchcock — and David Lynch as well — influenced you, but the character of India’s mother, Evelyn, would be at home in a Tennessee Williams play. Was that intentional?
Actually, the intention was to not evoke Tennessee Williams because the script ran the risk of being so under that influence. Of course, I am a fan of Tennessee Williams, but it’s not where I wanted to go, though I don’t want to blame Wentworth for everything. [Smiles]
Lady Vengeance and, to a degree, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance had to do with family and revenge. I feel like these themes connect your earlier work to Stoker. Would you agree?
It would depend on who’s doing the interpreting. Take the vengeance theme, for example. Some people might say that this film has nothing to do with the idea of vengeance. But if you want to interpret it as a story about vengeance, you can. It lends itself to that interpretation just as well as any other.
You’re absolutely right. It is an entirely possible interpretation. And there you have the link to the Vengeance trilogy. But I would say that Stoker lends itself just as well to vampiric aspects and is more closely linked to Thirst. But I also wanted to focus on the coming-of-age story of a young girl, and in that sense, it’s closer to I’m A Cyborg But That’s OK.