Director: Park Chan-wook
Screenwriters: Park Chan-wook, Jeong Seo-kyeong
Director of Photography: Chung Chung-hoon
Cast: Kim Min-hee, Kim Tae-ri, Ha Jung-woo
Synopsis: Set in 1930s Korea, “The Handmaiden” tells the story of a pickpocket recruited by a conman as part of an elaborate plan to steal the fortune of a wealthy heiress. While the conman attempts to build a relationship with his target, he finds his plan going in unexpected directions after the two women develop feelings for one another.
The Handmaiden Review:
An exquisite tale of reactive romance from South Korea’s most accessible director, “The Handmaiden” sees Park Chan-wook at his most playful, constructing a filmic tapestry that glides smooth as butter while his co-written screenplay bumps and trips its way through a twisting narrative. Rewriting the story as it progresses, the director surpasses himself in each segment, allowing the characters to grow before our eyes while intense revelations produce a love story built on deceit and trickery.
Designed to challenge all that came before it, “The Handmaiden” treats girl-on-girl romance with the respect it deserves, awarding the female leads a level of autonomy so rarely seen in a period setting as their yearning for a freedom beyond the restrictions of desire creates a plot fuelled by more than mere pleasures of the flesh. Based on the sexual deviance of classic erotica yet normalising same-sex romance through the women’s indifference towards their male counterparts, the movie replaces obedience with agency as heterosexuality is rendered perverse while the women come to detest expectation with the same fervour with which they lust for one another.
Based on a presumptuous framework yet destined to unravel with multiple twists and turns, the film uses dishonesty to its advantage as a resilient romance plays out at the expense of the most presuming of characters, ensuring that belligerence stifles submissiveness while a seductress gains the upper hand in her own twisted game of manipulation. Making sure that the Dangerous Liaisons-style plot thickens and solidifies upon each viewing, Park Chan-wook uses subtle details like blue cigarettes and black tongues to add to his masterful colour palette as a film of womanly affection blooms like a spring rose while scoffing in the face of traditional convention.