The Handmaiden – Another Masterpiece by Park Chan-Wook
Nam Sook-hee (Kim Tae-ri) was an orphan who dreamt of leaving South Korea and to live a better life overseas. One day, a man named Count Fujiwara (Ha Jung-woo) approached Sook-hee and offer her the job to be the personal maid to the rich and mysterious Japanese heiress, Lady Hideko (Kim Min-hee).
Nam Sook-hee was an orphan raised by Bok-soon (Yong nye-Lee) who was a top purveyor of stolen goods. Sook-hee grew up learning how to pickpocket and forge fake signature stamps. This group of con artists get abandoned babies, took care of them, and sold them to the Japan. When a conman named Fujiwara – who would pretend as a Count to win over the heart of Lady Hideko and eventually her fortune – chose Sook-hee to be Lady Hideko’s maid, Sook-hee was skeptical and not exactly thrilled about the idea.
But when Fujiwara agreed to give commission for her work, she eventually agreed. What she has to do was to follow Lady Hideko’s every move and report back to Fujiwara, also to continuously encourage Lady Hideko to marry Fujiwara. Fujiawara also told Sook-hee that he planned on declaring Lady Hideko insane and sending her off to a mental asylum after he inherited her fortune.
When she arrived at the mansion – which was divided into English and Japanese style – she was greeted by madame Sasaki (Kim Hae-sook) who was the butler of the mansion. Sasaki announced that Sook-hee’s name would now be Tamako and explained to her what her duties would be. Since that day on, she spent her day taking care of Lady Hideko, giving her baths, helping her put on her corset and sometimes even comforted her when she couldn’t sleep. And she reported all of it to Fujiwara, as she continued to help him plan his next move.
However, what Sook-hee came to realize was that Lady Hideko was actually pretty likable and not as cold and mysterious as the rumors made her seem. The longer she spend by Lady Hideko’s side, the more she started to care for her and she started to waver and wonder if she was really going to go through with her and Fujiwara’s plan.
The Handmaiden was definitely a magnificent movie. All I know before watching this movie was that this movie was quite the hype and most people who have watched it, thoroughly enjoyed it. That was all I know. I went into this movie totally blind, which I totally recommend everybody doing because the plot itself unfold in such a beautifully organized fashion.
I could positively say, this movie went above and beyond my expectation. I have never watched any movie that was able to blow my mind and capture my attention as well as this one. The Handmaiden was definitely one of the most mind-blowing yet exquisite movie I have ever watched to date. The movie was divided into three parts, all giving different perspectives from different characters. I personally think this was actually a very unique and interesting way to tell the story. Not only that it made the viewers understand the characters better, it also made the story perfectly structured to give more and more insight as the film progressed, but at the same time, keeping the viewers guessing.
What I find so interesting about this movie was the ability to keep the viewers engaged without revealing the plot. When I was watching this movie, I often find myself trying to guess what was going to happen next, and how the story was going to go, only to have my guesses proven wrong.
With that being said, this movie was a thriller erotica. So The Handmaiden, being the genre that it was, was quite graphic and explicit. So, if you are planning on watching this movie, I would suggest to not watch it in public or with kids around. That is also one of the beauty of this movie, even when it was an erotica, this movie didn’t really make that as their main focus. It never gets too much, the sex scenes are done in perfect taste, they never feel out of place and they’re not there just for the sake of it.
Visually, this movie was a feast for the eyes. Not only the cinematography – which there are a lot of beautiful shots and sceneries– but also the costumes, set design and music, all combined to create a captivating vision of Japan-occupied Korea in the 1930s. More than anything else, this movie explored the relationship between the characters and sexuality in a totally different yet appealing way.
However, with this movie being 2 hour and 47 minutes long, I do feel like there are some parts of the movie that are dragged out where it doesn’t need to be. And there were places where they could use a little bit more explaining but they glossed over. The build up in the story was amazing, but the ending felt a little bit anticlimactic for me. But overall, I enjoyed this movie a lot despite it being a 2 hour and 47 minutes long movie, it opened my eyes to something totally new and different.
Was this a movie for everyone? definitely not. But if you have an open mind and would like to try out something different (and yes, I mean something really different), do give this movie a try. But know that your mind will be thoroughly toyed with, and you will be left in awe with the brilliance of this movie. The Handmaiden was definitely one of those movies that would stick with you long after it’s finished.
*Disclaimer : This movie is not suitable for all age as it consists sex scenes.