Stoker

Korean director Park Chan-wook, better know for his gory thriller OldBoy, returns with his latest feature “STOKER”, which is in turn his first English-language film. Completely surpassing the language barrier, this visionary filmmaker creates a film that is at once perversely beautiful, and disturbingly hypnotic. Park talked about his transition into the filmmaking process of the Hollywood machine, his perspective on evil, and communicating with an English speaking cast. On their part, the main cast formed by Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode, and Mia Wasikowska, shared their reasons to participate in the project, the psychological motivations of their characters, and their take on the overall experience of working with Park. Here is what the main players in this marvelous movie had to say.

What was the biggest challenge about making a film in the US in comparison to your previous films in Korea?

Director Park: “[In the US] I had to shoot twice as fast as I’m used to in Korea, this was the most challenging thing.  In Korea I would watch the playback of each take with all of the actors, and we would spend a lot of time to discuss each take. Also, we used a process we call “on set assembly” because I storyboard the entire film right at the beginning, even before pre-production begins. My vision is already laid out on the storyboard for everybody to share.

This enables the “on set assembly” person to put together each take into a sequence, so this enables me to review the take within the context of the scene. This is why I would take twice as much time to shot a film in Korea. Thinking back, I remember that on my first Korean film I never actually used any playback, so for this one I only had to tell myself “Well its only like making my first Korean film”, after that I felt right at home.”

As an actor, what drew each one of you to your characters in ‘STOKER’?

Nicole Kidman: “For me primarily, it was the combination of the cast, and being spearheaded by Director Park. I knew his films and I wanted to work with him. I just thought the combination of this script with his direction would be really unusual. I saw it for the first time at Sundance last week and I was like “WOW” which is a great reaction to have. A good “WOW” not a bad “WOW”

Mathew Goode: “I was very lucky to be part of this, but as far as the actual character and wanting to do it, of course it is about Director Park, and these two beautiful ladies to my left. The role is psychologically interesting, it was confusing, and brilliant, and wonderful. All those sorts of things I like to involve with. It would be amazing to have twice as much time to make a film with him; we are gonna make more films in Korea.”

Mia Wasikowska: “For me it was the same thing, to work with Director Park and the cast. India was a very different character to anything that I’ve played before, so I was excited about that.”

stoker-mia-wasikowska-matthew-goode

Were there any issues because of the language barrier, or the need for a translator to communicate from director to actors?

Mathew Goode: “One of the first films I was in was in Spanish, and I don’t speak Spanish. That’s as hard as you are gonna get, doing a film in a different language. But [in ‘Stoker’] it was really easy, all the discussions I had with Director Park lasted about an hour, all you are worrying about at the beginning is who you should be looking at, but once you are on set I didn’t think about it at all.”

Nicole Kidman: “There is times when you have to clarify words, because obviously, you know, particular words mean certain things. A lot of times it would be me just going  “Is this exactly what he wants?” because in translation things can get lost. I just was very specific with him.”

Director Park: “Well, actors are professionals who deal with people’s emotions and their thoughts. So, working with these very intelligent, smart cast, meant that sometimes I would only have to start speaking a word, and these wonderful actors would immediately catch on to what to what I wanted, and how I wanted them to act. Really communicating was not an issue.”

Do you think there is a difference in the way the script feels because it was written by an actor?

Mia Wasikowska: “No, I think a good script is just a good script. I thought it was amazing the first time I read it. I was instantly drawn into this world, and these really complex characters, and the mystery within all of them.”

Nicole Kidman: “I had to read it a couple of times to understand it just because it’s got  a lot of subtext, and layers, and stuff. I just wanted to kind of absorb what the overall feeling of it was. I think the strength of Director Park is atmosphere, he creates incredible atmosphere. And the script relies heavily on the language of the images because there is not a lot of dialogue, so the cinematic language of it has to be very, very strong.

When I had a meeting with him we talked about all of that, and he was just extraordinary how detailed, and precise in what he knew he wanted to say. His use of color and sound, everything it’s very specific, not by chance, and that’s something that really fills in a lot in a script like this.”

nicole_kidman_stoker_a_l

Nicole Kidman on her character Evie: “I actually don’t think that Evie is evil, she is misunderstood. I felt like she is just starved for love, and she’s got a child that she doesn’t connect with. Director Park when we first met said to me “Ever since you’ve held this baby this baby has never wanted to be held” , and that’s an amazing way to start building the relationship of this mother and child. That’s horrifying, as a mother if your baby doesn’t want to be held by you.

This child that she’s had just doesn’t connect with her, so she is always trying to, in some way, connect, and obviously that’s gotten broken down over years and years. India had a much stronger connection with her father, they hunted together, and Evie didn’t like to hunt. That was fascinating to me, and then also I came up with my own thing in terms of how “she is just very starved for love”, and that creates a particular personality after a while of being starved of being touched, and held. SHE IS NOT EVIL!”

Mia Wasikowska: “NEITHER IS INDIA!”

On “Bad Blood”

Nicole Kidman: Director Parker says this is a movie about “bad blood”, which I thought was a really interesting way to describe it, and what bad blood is in a way.

Director Park: I want the story to be interpreted in as many ways as possible, of course the “bad-blooded” aspect of it included. For instance, perhaps this is a story not about the hereditary nature of evil, but rather you could interpret it from a different perspective too. You could say that evil is contagious, we have this mesmerizing mentor in uncle Charlie, Matthew, who would come into your life, and every person has a seed of evil inside, and when you come across such mesmerizing mentor, he is able to successfully turn it into a flower of evil.

stoker-matthew-goode-926-2

Matthew, since there is lots of symbolism in relation to predators, was there any animalistic influence in your performance?

There was an element related to predators, but rather than thinking “I’m gonna do it like a penguin” The animal thing, a lot of actors do use it, so it is really important. But he [Uncle Charlie] dances really for me, so it is sort of animalistic.

How do you think ‘STOKER’ fits into a film genre, and if so, which genre?

Nicole Kidman: I’m not sure what genre it fits into, ‘cause it’s hard to define it. I was amazing at the filmmaking; you don’t see that kind of filmmaking that often. A lot of the stuff I hadn’t seen ‘cause I’m not in it, so even the scene in the playground, I was like “WOW”. [The film] it’s very layered, with the metaphors that he uses, or the hair scene, I had no idea.

He was like “We are just gonna shoot her brushing your hair”, and then I see the film and I’m like “Awweee, that’s amazing.” That sort of detailed filmmaking is one, really hard to do and not have it being pretentious, and two, have it really tell the story visually. What you are taught is that cinema is the language of images, and that you really should be able to make a film with no dialogue, and tell a story. I really think Director Park should do that next.