There’s no doubt that director Park Chan-wook (Oldboy, Sympathy for Mr. Vengenace, Lady Vengeance, Thirst) is a true visual master. It’s in his blood. His English-language debut, Stoker, penned by Ted Foulke (aka Wentworth Miller), is no exception. Not only is the story somehow atmospheric, creepy and fun – but the visual aesthetic is absolutely astounding. Some directors make movies while others truly understand the language of cinema. And Director Park is certainly among the latter in that regard.
I didn’t have time to talk to him for my set report, so I was thrilled to be able to catch up with him at the SLS Hotel in Los Angeles last month. While we chatted for 15 minutes, keep in mind it was via translator – so there was some inherent back and forth that kept the actual content covered on the shorter side.
“After India’s (Wasikowska’s) father dies in an auto accident, her Uncle Charlie (Goode), who she never knew existed, comes to live with her and her emotionally unstable mother (Kidman). Soon after his arrival, she comes to suspect this mysterious, charming man has ulterior motives, but instead of feeling outrage or horror, this friendless girl becomes increasingly infatuated with him.” Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode, Jacki Weaver, Lucas Till, Alden Ehrenreich, Phyllis Somerville and Dermot Mulroney all star.
What was your reaction when you first read the script for this? It’s such an atmospheric slow burn.
Via translator: He actually had the same impressions you did. The script came across as atmospheric. Rather than how the characters behaved, one of the first things that came to mind when he read the script was the air. The air of the mansion, which was very thick and very rustic. This came across as very tactile and very aromatic, you could smell it.
A lot of the camera work is very elaborate, there are a lot of complex shots. Even if the characters are static. Can you talk about the thought behind that? Because the result is pretty remarkable.
Via translator: It’s a very simple film, and there isn’t very much dialogue either. So the film depends entirely on editing, camerawork and sound in order to describe the dynamic between the characters and their emotions. He isn’t the kind of filmmaker who likes to shake his camera at the subject.
When you watch his films there are moments when the camera is very still and moments where it is very dynamic. He will choose whether or not the camera will be still depending on the situation. He has a principle that he lives by, without a special reason he doesn’t want to move his camera. There are many moments in this film that are also very still.
The movie seems to take a nature over nurture approach in regard to the genesis of evil in people. In that way it sort of reminds me of Halloween, in which evil simply exists. Do you see the film that way? Or do you see something else in it besides the “evil gene.”
Via translator: In this film the way that India opens her eyes to the ways of evil, that process he thinks is open to multiple interpretations. For instance, someone might look at the film and ask if we’re saying evil is hereditary. Or someone might look at it and think we are saying that evil is infectious. An Uncle Charlie enters your life and contaminates you. Also, one might interpret it in the way that everyone harbors the seed of evil inside them, and it only takes a good mentor like Uncle Charlie to turn that seed into a flower.
How’s The Brigands Of Rattleborge coming along?
Via translator: It’s true that he’s interested in doing that script, but so far he hasn’t signed any deals. But he does want to do a western, even if it’s not Brigands.
So is that genre you see yourself heading next then?
Via translator: Maybe one more American film, then a Korean one after that. But he wants to continue going back and forth between the two now.