In 1930s Korea, during Japanese occupation, Sookee (Tae-ri Kim) is hired as a handmaiden to a Japanese heiress who lives a secluded life on an enchanting and lavish estate with her domineering uncle. Yet Sookee has a secret, she has been recruited by a swindler posing as an illustrious Count to spy on the Lady so he can eventually seduce her and steal her fortune. However, this swindler is not the only one with a desire to seduce.
Loved this film. It's sensual, gentle l and provocative. Very erotic without being sleazy. I enjoyed the storyline and it is beautifully shot. A love story with a difference.
6 out of 7 members found this review helpful.
Overlong and tedious
- The Handmaiden review by PH
Beautifully filmed, ravishing sets, but in the end I had to go to IMDb synopsis to discover what it was all about , even then there were huge plot gaps , and by the end , I didn’t really care . I would send the lot to the mental asylum to sort it out between them ( see plot !)
As a fan of Korean films and having just watched “The Handmaiden” I can honestly say it is probably the best Korean film I have seen.
It is directed by the great Chan-wook Park, of ‘Oldboy’ fame and if you have seen any of his films before you will know that he is renowned for a particular style, with gorgeous cinematography and quirky plots, and he can never be accused of being restrained.
The Handmaiden is based upon the English novel ‘Fingersmith’ which was set in Victorian England but The Handmaiden translates the story to 1930s Korea when the country was under Japanese occupation. The subtitles are helpfully in yellow when Japanese is being spoken and white when it is Korean, and this is quite important to understanding the plot.
It tells the tale of a young girl from a family of thieves who takes part in a plot to defraud a rich Japanese heiress of her money by helping a crook who poses as a Count to marry her, put her into an asylum and steal her fortune. However the girl who is put into the role of the handmaiden starts to fall for her mistress and from then on things get complicated. I will not elaborate more on the plot as it is quite involved and full of unexpected twists. There is little more I could say without spoiling it.
The film is extraordinarily beautiful. It is sometimes said about films that each frame is like piece of art and this is very much the case here. The plot is intricate and twisty, the acting is superb, the costumes and sets are magnificent and the score is pretty damned good too. To me it was faultless.
But be warned. There are some extended scenes of quite explicit lesbian sex so if that sort of thing bothers you then it may not be for you. However these scenes are tastefully done and never vulgar. There are also some disturbing scenes of torture near the end so it is definitely not one to watch with the kids. The film is also two and a half hours in length but it had me gripped all the way through.
So if you like art house films of an adult nature, that explore love, treachery and some of the darker sides of humanity then I would highly recommend it. If you are someone who likes Hollywood style action films and can’t do subtitles then it wont be for you. Hollywood could never produce something like this.
The film gained widespread acclaim at the Cannes film festival and has a pretty decent 8.1 score on IMDB.
Very clever plot and an intriguing way of telling the story from several angles. Really absorbing film with good twists but perhaps overlong and also the 'eroticism' was mainly unnecessary.
0 out of 0 members found this review helpful.
A Work of Pure Beauty and Physological Power
- The Handmaiden review by BB
Enjoyed this film as a work of art...the inherent plot is and will remain an eternal "specimen" of male and female sexual power.
0 out of 0 members found this review helpful.
Clever adaptation of Fingersmith
- The Handmaiden review by PL
This is a Korean adaptation of Sarah Waters' Victorian novel Fingersmith. It is beautifully shot and faithful to the novel despite its recasting from Victorian England to 1930s Korea. It is a little over-long at nearly two and a half hours.
2 out of 2 members found this review helpful.
impressive tour de force!
- The Handmaiden review by JF
beautiful, wonderful feeling to most of the scenes. Very romantic in different way.I found it so impressive that I had to buy a copy
A film of intense contrast. Its extraordinary cinematography is a vivid celebration of beauty, whether it be the exquisite gardens, opulent interiors, or the arresting physical beauty of its two female leads and their passion for each other. But as a counterpoint to this there's some real darkness of the human soul depicted here too. Hard to describe without spoilers, but suffice to say there are moments of grotesque violence that left me shocked and queasy. And male sexuality is presented as something irredeemably grim and sleazy, perhaps again to emphasise the gentle sensuality of the love scenes between the women. The sexual content seems to have proved controversial, although to me it's a baffling indictment of our culture that simply showing two women making love arouses so much debate whilst the cruelty and brutality depicted elsewhere in this film passes without comment.
Whilst I certainly felt challenged by its strand of Gothic nastiness I'd still recommend as a memorable and affecting experience.