Oh dear. Almost a week has gone by since we saw Stoker…I just might be a little fuzzy on the details (yes, fuzzier even than usual). On the other hand, it might just give me the kind of distance I would need to develop some fantastic insight as to what it all means. Let's see, shall we?
The basic premise is that the father of the family has died in a car accident and now the uncle she never knew has come into India Stoker's life. He seems very chummy with her mother, but also intensely trying to connect with India herself. It's funny that I don't even remember the funeral scene. Is that fuzzy or is that more evidence of slumber?
Uncle goes so far as to insinuate himself into many aspects of India's life, from the piano playing to being there at strange moments to pull her out of difficult situations or to provoke her to act on her own behalf. By the end of the movie, I didn't even know if he existed (not to cast aspersions on the fine acting of Matthew Goode as Charles Stoker) or if he was some kind of manifestation of a part of India.
There's a fair amount of stabbing in this movie. Shears to the eye seems to be a favourite, but I think my favourite stab aftermath came after India stabbed the bully at school with her pencil. Deeply, in the hand. There is a very creepily beautiful close-up of her sharpening the bloody end off of her pencil until it is back to a regular pencil look, dripping blood-soaked shavings discarded.
Another film device seems to be a loop in what happens when she goes for a walk with Whip, played by my recent favourite Alden Ehrenreich. Here's a picture of him, although it isn't from this film…just wanted to have him out there in a new pose for you. Dreamy…
There is not much that is dreamy about his character in this film, however. He does step in to call off the bullies at school, but when she goes for a walk with him into the woods he gets rather insistent and doesn't seem to understand what "no" means, attempting to sexually assault her. Here comes the loop: we see several scenarios playing out and then rewinding and starting over until…well, let's just say my boy doesn't come out of it too well. But was that India or was it actually her uncle?
And then we get to thinking about how her father died, and might that have been the work of her uncle, or her "uncle" or a not particularly avuncular part of her? Deep reflections here.
In all, a beautifully filmed film. Chan-wook Park (probably Park Chan-wook) directed this, his first English-language film, I believe. I would totally go see more of his work and might have to hunt down the Korean stuff if subtitles are available.
And if stabby is your thing, it's got it in spades…or shears!
So: the verdict? Fuzzy or insightful? I might have to stick with fuzzy – if only to maintain my amateur status – and raise myself a deluded for my speculation on the uncle front. You be the judge.