By Moxie McMurder
“My ears hear what others cannot hear; small faraway things people cannot normally see are visible to me. These senses are the fruits of a lifetime of longing, longing to be rescued, to be completed. Just as the skirt needs the wind to billow, I’m not formed by things that are of myself alone. I wear my father’s belt tied around my mother’s blouse, and shoes which are from my uncle. This is me. Just as a flower does not choose its color, we are not responsible for what we have come to be. Only once you realize this do you become free, and to become adult is to become free.“
The soundtrack to Park Chan-wook’s film Stoker starts with a clip of Mia Wisikowska’s India Stoker, a young girl left adrift when her father dies, leaving her in the company of her cold and somewhat unstable mother. Her long-lost Uncle Charlie unexpectedly turns up for the funeral and his stay with the family causes a chain reaction of incidents that combine to make the film a memorably dark tale. The music itself kicks in ‘I Became the Colour’ by Emily Wells, a laid back pop song that runs over the closing credits and lyrically echos the character of India.
The album is a mix of songs chosen for the film and the actual score by Clint Mansell, with one exception: ‘Duet’, written for the film by minimalist composer Philip Glass, and it’s one of the stand out tracks of the soundtrack. It has a beautiful quality to it, at first quiet and haunting before picking up the pace and injecting fun as it soars, only for it to turn south and bring you back to uncertainty. In the film, ‘Duet’ is the tune India and Uncle Charlie play on the piano together, and it really matches the emotions of the two as they play.
‘Summer Wine’ is a song by Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood, and to be honest I’m not familiar with it outside of this soundtrack. We are also treated to ‘Stride La Vampa’, an aria from opera Il Trovatore. I know very little about opera, but from what I gather the aria is by an old gypsy woman who is recounting her undying vengeance against the count who murdered her mother many years before – ‘Evil shines, upon horrible faces, beside the gloomy flame, that rises to the sky!’.
But the majority of the album focuses on Clint Mansell’s excellent score, which is everything you would expect from Darren Aronofsky’s house composer. Different, measured and atmospheric. Stoker is a great film with some dark moments and unexpected turns, and Mansell captures that feeling perfectly. I particularly like the running thread of the Hunter/Game tracks of which there are three: ‘The Hunter and the Game’, ‘The Hunter Plays The Game’, and ‘The Hunter Becomes The Game’. Great titles which play into the plot of the film and they are all variations on a theme.
‘The Hunter and the Game’ has a slow, melancholy feel to it. This is the first time we hear the Hunter/Game refrain, which fits perfectly with a girl who’s growing to understand herself and those around her. It has a fascinating mix of almost understated industrial themes, combined with a soaring orchestral movement which builds around the theme and adds a frantic quality to it.
‘The Hunter Becomes The Game’ builds slowly, like a storm. It moves from being very quiet and still to a steady beat that creates a feeling of dread and unease, only to end just when you expect more. Back to the unknown. The album ends with a reprise of the “This is me…” section of dialogue, followed by ‘If I Ever Had A Heart’, a dreamy song written by Mansell in his low-key electronic style with vocals by Emily Wells.
Once again Clint Mansell manages to create a score so wonderful and suited to the film that it’s hard to imagine anyone else scoring it. A superb score and album.
Stoker is available on CD and LP from Milan Records