Based on Welsh novelist Sarah Waters’ Fingersmith, this outrageous and lusciously erotic thriller from the director of Oldboy transposes a Victorian tale of sex, duplicity and madness to 1930s Japanese-occupied Korea.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2016
“Boasting more tangled plots and bodies than an octopus has tentacles, South Korean auteur Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden is a bodice-ripper about a pickpocket who poses as a maid to swindle a sequestered heiress. His first Korean-language fiction feature since 2009’s Thirst, it’s sybaritic, cruel and luridly mesmerizing.” — Maggie Lee, Variety
“Park [Oldboy] Chan-wook’s new movie, a brazen lesbian twist-fest based on Sarah Waters’ novel Fingersmith, doesn’t lose its duty to entertain amid all its style. Set in 1930s Korea, during the Japanese occupation, The Handmaiden follows Sookee (Kim Tae-ri), a born thief who is recruited to help a con man (Ha Jung-woo) with his plan to seduce a lonely, addled heiress (Kim Min-hee), who lives in a creepy manor house with her even creepier uncle.
I don’t want to tell you much of anything about how things play out, because there are plenty of nifty, nasty surprises to be enjoyed here, but you should know that there’s some rather explicit handmaiden-on-lady-of-the-house sex, there’s some familiar Park Chan-wook arty gore, and there’s a lot of old-timey porn. Amid all that, Park doesn’t get distracted, keeping a tight focus on the winding story and coaxing great performances out of all four leads. Kim Min-hee is especially entrancing, robustly playing a nutty, devious rich girl with a soul. An intelligent, funny erotic thriller, The Handmaiden seems destined for some kind of American remake that isn’t likely to live up to Park’s invention, wit, and daring.” — Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair