TIFF 2016 Review: “The Handmaiden” (2016) ★★★★★


Before reviewing Chan-Wook Park’s subtly directed THE HANDMAIDEN, I had to give myself a few hours to think over, to ensure that anything I say or write about this film won’t be used against me in a trial. That part of course is a joke I wanted to use.  However, after re-analyzing the film, its plot, directorial approach, camera movement, and a performance that nobody could even stand close to, I must say, there should be something wrong with me if I enjoyed every minute of it. But if it’s not, then THE HANDMAIDEN is one of the bravest film nowadays you won’t see coming from any other mind, other than Chan-Wook Park’s.

THE HANDMAIDEN is adapted from the novel Fingersmith written by Sarah Waters, moving it from the Victorian era to Korea under the Japanese colonial rule. It follows a young woman named Sook-Hee/Ukju (Kim Tae-ri), who is hired by Count Fujiwara (Ha Jung-woo) as a handmaiden to a Japanese heiress, Lady Hideko (Kim Min-hee). The purpose of her job is to help Fujiwara to send Lady Hideko to a mental house in order to take over her money.

But soon, the young woman helplessly falls for the woman, that eventually will turn every Fujiwara’s plan upside down. But the result of that is a brilliant execution, no matter how attentive viewer you are, won’t be able to predict. And how could it be otherwise, when uncontrolled passion, love and betrayal are the driving forces to a great culmination? But one thing you should be prepared for is to completely fall in love with this amazing, and the true indication of masterclass, cinema you will not see much in the modern era of cinematography.

In conclusion, Chan-Wook Park’s film is set in three parts where each of them says the same story from a different angle and perspective. That, I should say, is a very difficult task, when each time to solve the puzzle you have to wait until the filmmaker releases the answer to the question you won’t find so easy. Actors do an amazing job in portraying the characters while the scene when Lady Hideko reads erotic book with describing every detail is surely something worth seeing many times. The camera work is pure and unquestionable as it does what it should to bring to life what had been envisioned by the master of sublime cinema.


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