Directed by Park Chan-Wook
From 14th April 2017
Reviewed by Colin Serjent
Duplicity is very much to the fore in this film, where double dealers are double dealt themselves!
It shows human characters as being increasingly devious as a means to gain something, whether wealth or influence, for themselves, no matter the cost to those they are supposedly devoted and loyal to.
Based upon an adaptation of Sarah Walters ‘Fingersmith’ it is set in three acts. The first is very convincing in its storytelling; the second, I must admit, a tad confusing – It was set before the events which opened the first part; and the third part, based after the end of the first part. Get my drift?!
It is based in Korea in the 1930s, colonised by Japan. Most of the tale takes place in a remote estate that oddly combines the architecture if Japan and England. It features lots of sliding doors, aka Akira Kurosawa films.
Within lives a Japanese heiress called Hideko (Kim Min-0hee). So-called Count Fujiwara (Ha Jung-woo), a Korean con merchant, arrives upon the scene in an attempt to deprive Hideko of what she will be entitled to, by employing a pickpocket Sook-hee (Kim Tae-ri) to act as a handmaiden to the reclusive Hideko.
As with the political situation in Korea at that time the film is woven around occupation and invasion. The metaphors for those two terms are prevalent throughout this multi-complex movie.
It is very erotic at times, including sex scenes between women. Some have commented that there is too much of, what is termed, a male gaze with these enactments.
Trust between people is a very nebulous concept in The Handmaiden but trust me this is a top notch film!