Film Review: The Handmaiden

“It Would Have Been Better If I Was Never Born. To Have Never Taken A Breath And Live…”

Korean director Park Chan-wook is the type of gifted individual who simply doesn’t make a bad movie no matter how hard he tries or how strangely subversive the subject material at his disposal comes across. With perhaps one of the greatest trio of movies in Chan-wook’s back catalogue in the form of the Vengeance trilogy, consisting of Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance, the immensely re-watchable and utterly twisted Oldboy, and of course, Lady Vengeance, the South Korean auteur returns to his language of birth after 2013’s English speaking Stoker in the form of The Handmaiden, a cinematic adaptation of the historical crime novel “Fingersmith”, penned by Welsh author Sarah Waters, albeit with the novel’s Victorian-era Britain setting changed to early 20th century Korea when the country was under Japanese rule. Whilst Chan-wook’s penchant for the surreal and the violent have somewhat calmed down with his latest release, the erotic undercurrent and captivating thrill of mystery regarding the narrative of The Handmaiden is another winning formula for a director who continues to impress with a beautifully designed love story which features the director’s best twists and turns since the release of Oldboy in 2003.

Tasked by Ha Jung-woo’s Count Fujiwara with infiltrating the life of the affluent Lady Izumi Hideko in order to sway her into marriage, young yet intelligent street hustler Sook-hee swiftly begins to feel a sense of conflicted devotion towards not only the Count but towards Lady Hideko’s sense of isolation and departure from the world outside the confines of her majestic household. With the plan set in motion in regards to the outcome of Lady Hideko, a chain of events take place which twist and turn at every available chance, resulting in a tale of lust, love and sexual desire which rank up there with the best that director Park Chan-wook has offered in his already highly distinguishable film career. Not only does The Handmaiden present itself as arguably the most stunningly presented film of the year so far, with everything from the set design to the imperious array of costumes a real sight to behold, each of the leading quartet of actors give it their absolute all in creating characters which not only are characterised within an each of their life, but are utterly compelling from beginning to end. With a narrative as winding as that which is witnessed on-screen, The Handmaiden zooms through its’ nearly 150 minute runtime with considerable ease whilst the dramatic turns which occur throughout are as jaw-dropping as the infamous twist within previous Chan-wook movies, resulting in a stunning piece of work which is as niche in terms of its’ targeted audience as it is fundamentally beautiful to behold in terms of film-making prowess. Seek it out.

Overall Score: 8/10

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Posted on 14/04/2017, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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