While critics have deemed the motion picture lukewarm, Stoker is a spectacular, allegorical feature film relying heavily on aesthetics to designate a dark and stormy narrative. Virtually everything in Park Chan-wook’s film speaks of calculated decisions made by its creators to define character and temperament, no matter how subtle.
The peculiar choice of Eurostile as typeface of choice to present the film’s opening and closing, alludes to Stoker’s strong 60’s point of reference. Blending with nature, Eurostile’s characters can be appreciated as type that is not superimposed, but set behind the foliage and scenery of an American suburb, where the film is set. Juxtaposed with the occasional calligraphy, Stoker speaks of a movie that is set in modern day but steeped with mid-century romance.
Making deviled eggs is an alarming but equally graceful pastime to watch India (Mia Wasikowska), the main character, partake. Along with the manse’s expansive hardwood flooring; a grand piano, cake stand, and rocking chair, compose a short list of the film’s many cultural trimmings that turn humdrum objects into cultural artifacts.
Color plays a pivotal role in the film. White and spearmint make up much of the house’s main interiors, allowing for rich transitions to take place splendidly. This exhibition can be appreciated in India’s wardrobe, particularly her pleated skirts which she pairs with her ever-present saddle shoes.
Much of Stoker’s magic is in its beautiful representation of the sartorial. India wears no make up, her hair is jet black and her skin is pale, complementing her simple wardrobe and deadpan facial expressions. On the other hand, her mother, Evelyn (Nicole Kidman), seems more apparent, but isn’t necessarily more visually striking. A lush, she is subdued in the mornings but vivified by evening drink, her maquillage turning stronger. Evelyn’s presence is enhanced by designer garments and precious fabrics like silk. In a climactic interaction with India’s uncle, Charlie (Matthew Goode), Evelyn’s fiery red hair is burnished by a gorgeous lace dress. It bolsters her otherwise fragile and pathetic disposition into the realms of something more extraordinary.
Charlie, the menacing intruder and uncle, is compelling to observe. His unsettling but handsome ways are a declaration of the fine-tuned. He is instrumental in India’s coming of age. This memorably takes place when he offers her a pair of alligator Christian Louboutins for her birthday. Charlie’s eyes are often milky, sometimes glassy, but he is devilishly good looking. As he prepares a rare, delicious, steak dinner, he wears khakis and a blue oxford button down with smart ease. He also brings home ice cream in striped, old fashioned packaging. His penmanship is arresting, along with his sketches, he is a cultured ominous character. He drives a Jaguar, and on a potentially rainy day he offers India a memorably yellow umbrella. He keeps a Bottega Veneta folder to house personal documents. A vividly rich, mustard sweater he wears designates a turning point as the film inches towards conclusion.
The music in Stroker adds another sensory dimension to the psychological thrill in the film. Notable is Nancy Sinatra’s “Summerwine,” coloring in another shade of 60’s expression. But the film’s crowning moment is Emily Wells “Becomes the Color,” a moody electronic number which ends the motion picture. Frilled with orchestral and jazz layers, Emily Wells’ musical prowess harks to the likes of Sia and Lamb.