Kidman, legendary South Korean director on sexy thriller 'Stoker'
MANILA, Philippines - Nicole Kidman is known for taking on ambitious projects helmed by auteur directors like Baz Luhrmann (“Moulin Rouge”), Gus Van Sant (“To Die For”), and John Cameron Mitchell (“Rabbit Hole”).
Her latest project, the sexy thriller “Stoker,” is of the same uncanny mold.
The auteur behind “Stoker” is South Korean director Park Chan-wook, known for his elegant, blood-soaked thrillers. His most famous, the vengeance-centered “Oldboy,” got nods from Quentin Tarantino and won the Grand Prix at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival.
Three of Park’s films, including “Oldboy,” are among the 30 highest grossing films in South Korea and have made him one of the most popular directors in the country.
But his filmmaking style is anything but mainstream.
“Stoker,” his first English movie, takes the same brutal, blood-curdling — yet strangely touching — cue. Its troublingly beautiful screenplay was written by Wentworth Miller of “Prison Break” fame.
This haunting music video, featuring Emily Wells' song "Becomes the Color," gives an exquisite preview of the film's look and feel:
Nicole Kidman stars alongside Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, and Dermot Mulroney in this dark thriller about complex family relationships, the loss of innocence, and the lethal outcomes of a dangerous attraction.
Wasikowska, masterfully channelling the eerie and innocent characters she plays so well (notably in “Alice in Wonderland” and “The Kids Are All Right”), plays India Stoker, a quiet artist of beautiful sketches who loses her father and best friend (Mulroney) to a car crash.
Her father's death shatters her world. She puts on a mask of impassivity to hide the deep feelings only her father understood. This further estranges her from her mother Evie, played with heartbreaking intensity by Kidman, an emotionally unstable creature starved for affection.
A ticking bomb in the form of India’s charming, good-looking uncle Charlie (who disturbingly resembles her father) drops into their lives and sets off a chain of events that ends in brutality.
Charlie is channelled by Matthew Goode who has played charming characters before, in “Match Point” and “Chasing Liberty.” His smiling, cheery behavior arouses India’s suspicion; as they spend more time together, she finds out that they have more in common. A creepy attraction develops between uncle and niece.
Left to fend for her fragile self is Kidman’s Evie, all quivering intensity as she watches her daughter’s innocence slowly chafe away.
Evie, described by director Park as “almost a fairytale godmother,” is a character Kidman says she has never played before.
The Australian actress says, “We start the film with her husband’s funeral. It’s obvious the mother-daughter relationship is already fraught with resentment and anger. She’s in a very raw state when we meet her, and Charlie fills the void.”
Kidman and Park had nothing but compliments for each other after their first collaboration.
“I never expected that I would have the good fortune to be working with an actor of Nicole’s caliber on my first English language film,” says Park.
Though the South Korean director needed translators to communicate with his actors on set, he and Kidman seemed to be in-synch with each other.
“Nicole can modulate the tone and quality of her performance at will,” he says. “I would say only a few key words and she would readily adjust her performance. She is an actor who truly showed me what being a pro is all about.”
For her part, Kidman thinks Park and the film’s eerie, complex plot is a match made in heaven.
She rhapsodizes, “He is a filmmaker who is particularly revered amongst other filmmakers. I love supporting artists who have a unique way of expressing themselves and are willing to take chances. I certainly have done many mainstream movies, but to be able support filmmakers who embrace a different way of looking at the world is my greatest joy as an actor.”
“Stoker” promises to be a thriller cineastes should be watching out for, not just because it is a brave crossover of a successful Asian director who brings his own unique vision to Hollywood.
It’s a thriller whose very making thrills. - With reports by Pia Ranada/Rappler.com
('Stoker' will screen in Philippine cinemas on March 1.)