Matthew Goode, Nicole Kidman and Mia Wasikowska in Stoker.
Wasikowska on set with director Chan-wook Park (right).
In Stoker, renowned Korean film-maker Chan-wook Park brings his Eastern sensibilities to a very strange part of the American South. So is it about vampires, then? 'It's about jealousy,' the director tells TARA BRADY
A FANGIRL WRITES: I’ve been lucky enough to interview Chan-wook Park five times in 10 years, a fact I never tire telling anyone who’ll listen. Even now, it’s hard to accept the person of Park – as softly spoken and mild-mannered a film-maker as you’ll find – as the writer-director behind the Vengeance Trilogy. Try as I might I can never picture him writing and shooting the scene in Oldboy wherein actor Choi Min-sik violently devours a live octopus or orchestrating the child- hanging sequence in Lady Vengeance
Director Park – as his crew call him on set – does speak English though prefers to do so through his interpreter and co-producer Won-jo Jeong. He’s has just directed Stoker, his first Hollywood picture, in that way.
“It didn’t provide as much hardship as I thought,” says the 49-year-old. “It’s fine when you have a good translator. Just look at us now.”
A philosophy graduate, Park talks in measured, thoughtful verses and will hardly ever raise a point without politely considering the virtues of its antithesis. The moral of his oddball 2006 romance I’m a Cyborg but That’s Okay was “give up hope and cheer up”.
He’s modest about his achievements though he’s won countless awards including two from Cannes: OldBoy took home the Grand Prix in 2004; Thirst won the Jury Prize in 2004.
He can even make allowances for sweltering heat.
“With everything things are light and dark,” he says of Stoker’s American shoot. “If you go to Nashville, Tennessee, to avail of a great tax rebate and keep your movie under budget, you can’t complain about the heat in in August. It’s all part and parcel of making an American film. I can’t complain. It’s up to me to adapt. It’s up to me to learn how they do things over there, and do them.”
On reflection, this is precisely what we should expect from the director of OldBoy. The great trick of Park’s Vengeance Trilogy – comprising Sympathy for Mr Vengeance, OldBoy and Lady Vengeance – is that it’s an Anti-Vengeance Trilogy. Revenge fantasies are supposed to be cathartic; in Park’s milieu, revenge is hollow and corrosive.
The new film scratches at a different underbelly entirely.
“It’s about jealousy,” says Park. “I liked the idea that it takes place inside a residential house where three members of a family exchange a subtle flow of emotions and how jealousy moves around in family relationships.”
Stoker, an Oedipal psychodrama, picks up where the sex and death of Thirst – Park’s reworking of Émile Zola’s Thérèse Raquin as a vampire romance – left off. It’s one of what Park calls his “hot and cold” pieces.