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Bad Blood, Family & Philip Glass: 5 Things Learned About Park Chan-Wook's 'Stoker'

The Playlist By Charlie Schmidlin | The Playlist February 27, 2013 at 12:00PM

2013 stands to potentially bring three South Korean filmmakers' names into the mainstream American fold; a move notable not just from the three auteur's common land, but for placing their distinctive visions in an entirely new realm. With Kim Ji-Woon already delivering his Arnie action throwback, “The Last Stand,” and Bong Joon-Ho's “Snowpiercer” dropping later this year, the strange middle child is up next, in the twisted, baroque form of Park Chan-Wook's “Stoker.”
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Stoker Nicole Kidman
3. The Most Memorable Scenes Came From Both Improv and Detailed Scripted Monologues.
Throughout the film's moody narrative, Park enacts that cohesive vision via seamless transitions of visual and aural motifs, but that doesn't mean certain scenes aren't thrilling standouts. One of them -- glimpsed in the trailers -- depicts Kidman delivering a rancid monologue to her daughter after catching the first whiff of her betrayal. Kidman loves the scene “because it's so unusual, and when I first read it, I never expected it to end with that line: 'I can't wait to watch the world tear you apart.'”

She added, “Evie is not just an oppressive mother. I feel like she's just starved for love, and she's got a child that she doesn't connect with, and director Park - when we first met - said to me, ever since you've held this baby, this baby's not wanted to be held, and that's an amazing way to start building the relationship between a mother and a daughter.”

“We did it a number of different ways, but we shot it in one take, which is fantastic as an actor, so I was just very grateful that he had the vote of confidence of me to do it," she said. 

Wasikowska added, “It's very scary to be on the receiving end of it though.”

Another scene that sticks out for Goode comes (**Spoilers**) near the film's climax, when the extent of Charlie's murderous backstory is revealed. “There was a scene that was meant to be by the lake -- the burial of Richard and I's younger brother -- but [it] became compromised due to financial matters, and director Park rather brilliantly didn't flap about it," he said. “He got on with it, and created it in the backyard with the sandpit; it was just very quick, and more chilling because of the nature of play in the scene.

Park added, “Certainly including [the burial], I want the story to be interpreted in as many ways possible, but it is not a story about hereditary nature of evil. Everyone has a seed inside, and when you come across such a mesmerizing mentor, they have the ability to blossom into a flower of evil.” (**End Spoilers**)

Philip Glass
4. Philip Glass' Soundtrack Contribution Amounted to Wasikowska's Favorite Scene, and Goode's Most Challenging
As with its cast, “Stoker” features an amazing group of musicians for its soundtrack. Multi-instrumentalist Emily Wells supplies the end credit song, “Becomes The Color,” while composer Clint Mansell likewise contributes an evocative and on-form score. But the briefest and most memorable soundtrack moment comes from Philip Glass, who wrote an original piano piece that India and Charlie play together - an act drawing them closer in their devious ways.

“I really liked it because I didn't have to do much,” explained Wasikowska of the scene. “We had just playback going, and it's such an intense piece… the crew was sort of wilting around us but we were completely into it. When the music is there, all you have to do is surrender.”

The Stokers' piano plays a crucial role in India's arc over the course of the film, as it evokes the family's decaying grandeur, as well as India's solitary life. But the duet converges both aspects into an operatic display, as Park noted that Wasikowska and Goode deliver fantastic performances while actually playing the piano themselves. “They were trying to focus on getting the fingers right, but at the same time they perfectly encapsulated the emotions of the characters during those moments,” he said.

For the two actors in charge of playing the piece, it was a daunting but worthy prospect. Wasikowska explained, “I think with music, that's one more element that we don't have on set with us. Because we have such a blank canvas in a way -- we're always in a room with 15 people in our faces holding booms -- but when there's this music that's one more key to the tone of the scene. So it feels easy.”

“I don't play the piano, so the fact that they picked fucking Philip Glass is perfect,” Goode laughed. “We were able to play certain sections, so we were able to give Park options to shoot from behind. Because we all know the language of film, when you see someone playing something you say, 'I bet they're not playing that.' And then to show you that they are, in a way it's fucking with the audience. It's quite nice.”

Stoker Park Chan Wook Nicole Kidman
5. Park's First Hollywood Experience Was Jarring, But Only Initially
Park's decision to transplant his aberrant vision to an American landscape has been one approached with both caution and excitement, and when Park himself came to shooting “Stoker” in Nashville, TN, he definitely found an altered experience waiting for him.

Having to “shoot twice as fast as [I am] used to in Korea was the most challenging thing” about the film's 40-day production in 2011; a marked difference for Park not only in speed but process as well.

“In Korea, I would watch the playback with all of the actors and spend a lot of time discussing each take, and also I would use the process we call on-set assembly," he explained. "Because I storyboard my entire film at the beginning -- even before pre-production even begins -- the scene is already laid out in the storyboards, so it allows the on-set assembly person to cut each take [for immediate review]."

However, once he thought back to the beginning of his career, he relented from arguing. “I remember on my first ever Korean film, I never actually used any playback or onset assembly, so all I had to do while making 'Stoker' was remember, 'Oh, this is just like I'm making my first film,' so after that it didn't feel very difficult.”

Park didn't reveal if he had any other American projects in the works, but you can see his first attempt when “Stoker” hits theatres March 1st.

This article is related to: Stoker, Park Chan-wook, Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode, Mia Wasikowska


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