Park Chan-wook (Oldboy, Stoker) channels Sarah Waters’ novel Fingersmith, to create a sumptuous twisty psychological thriller full of erotic intrigue. Pretty Pickpocket Sook-hee is employed by con artist Count Fujiwara as handmaiden to the beautiful Lady Hideko. Fujiwara wants her help in conning the heiress into marriage to steal her inheritance. Isolated in her sadistic uncle’s mansion, Hideko and her maid find themselves falling in love, which complicates the dangerous con game.
Inspired by Welsh writer Sarah Waters’ 2002 novel Fingersmith, The Handmaiden relocates the narrative from Victorian England to 1930s Korea, which is under Japanese colonial rule. This enables production designer Ryu Seong-hie to give full flower to her imagination, creating awe-inspiring sets rich with period detail, blending Japanese and British architecture (and my God – the wallpaper!).
Marking Park Chan-wook’s first Korean film after Stoker, The Handmaiden continues the theme of revenge so deliciously and obsessively explored in the director’s Vengeance trilogy. But here, the erotic is foregrounded, through immaculately composed images that imbue every object with a seductive energy, so that even a pair of gloves thrums with scintillating power. A foxy concoction of exquisite style and thrilling storytelling, The Handmaiden will leave you breathless.