The Handmaiden is a South Korean erotic psychological film that is directed by Park Chan-Wook, who is famous for his Oldboy film and other hits in the South Korean film industry. His film has always contained a certain style and flair, with many of them being quite dark in nature with unexpected twists. Also, its cast comprises of a list of famous actors, particularly Kim Min Hee and Ha Jung Woo, of which they appear in Oldboy and The Chaser respectively. Now, will this be yet another hit from the director that holds up to his best? Read on to find out in The Handmaiden film review below!
(this film contains nudity, Japanese style erotism, and lesbian scenes)
The basic premise is about a crook Count Fujiwara trying to get a heritance from Lady Hideko. But to achieve this, he requests help from Sook Hee, a pickpocket from a family of con artists. Sook Hee enters Hideko’s mansion as a maid and tries to get her together with Fujiwara. However, their relationship grows more intimate and things get
complicated. Unknown to each party, there’s a hidden motive behind each action that is soon to be revealed through each event and twists. Question is, who shall benefit and who shall suffer the loss?
The Handmaiden is in a sense, an erotic artistic film that contains the essence of director Park that can be seen in many of his films. His style is never too artistic and is mixed with a bit of realism that borders on fantasy. The story is full of twists that hide a certain reason behind each of them. Also, its narrative is based on a novel of the Victorian era but is translated well into this chosen period when Korea is under the rule of Japanese. What I like is the story isn’t predictable and certainly non-cliche, of which I applaud. Next, the pacing is handled brilliantly, with every scene being important to both the narrative and the flow from calm moments to climatic to erotic.
Characters are full of ambiguity, with none of them being truly bad or good. Each of them has a motive that is in conflict with their own feelings of lust or love. The complexity of each character is another trademark of the Director’s movies. I love how they all play a certain role in the film, and that it seems each represents human’s greatest strength of sacrificing for love and also for greed and pursuit of own fantasy. Music soundtracks are fusion with a mixture of Japanese and Korean traditional tunes. But perhaps the greatest tracks are those of ambiance and tranquility, which contains a hint of sadness, and also the pure representation of Zen in the world of greed and erotic fantasy.