Park Chan-wook has broken down geographical boundaries, most notably with his gothic thriller Stoker (2013), starring Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman and Matthew Goode, from a script by Wentworth Miller. It was preceded by Thirst, an adaptation of Émile Zola’s tragic novel Thérèse Raquin, and is succeeded now by The Handmaiden, an adaptation of English writer Sarah Waters’ period novel Fingersmith.
Transposing Victorian London to Japanese-occupied Korea, young thief Sookee (Kim Tae-ri), posing as a handmaiden for nefarious intentions, is hired by the reclusive heiress Hideko (Kim Min-hee). From dialogue with a poetic aspect, to the visual and musical lyricism that creates dreamlike moments within a tale of manipulation and obsession, The Handmaiden pleasures the senses.
The raw sensuality of the erotic scenes compliment the unpredictable essence of the characters, whilst our sympathies become prey to the narrative itself. Indulgent in length (Park sacrifices perfection), the film remains enthralling as the fate of these two intriguing women unfolds.
The Handmaiden is now available for home entertainment courtesy of Curzon Artificial Eye.
1. Still from The Handmaiden.