The Handmaiden (2016) Film Overview

By Savannah Gisleson (Los Angeles)


For all of the visible opulence in Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden, some extent is to be made via it.

The complete frames mimic that of an oil-painting: smooth, heat, luxurious. Nonetheless, if the movie had been to be an outdated portrait the pink rose petal lips of the protagonists simmer – smiling, letting their secrets and techniques barely breach the floor. Nonetheless, as soon as their quiet simmers boil over, their transgressions and secrets and techniques explode via the canvas, slapping the viewer within the face. That is The Handmaiden’s modus operandi. Park winks on the viewers, as if to allow us to in on a secret, to tell us one thing is coming, that one thing large goes to occur. And as soon as it comes, nothing is shied away from – the whole lot that was as soon as within the shadows bursts into the sunshine.

There's nothing refined about Park’s path on this manner. We, because the viewers count on one thing to occur, after which it does. What attracts us in is the how, the why, and particularly the what. Many say the collective creativeness is usually extra grand or disturbing than what a director might present or painting – I reject this within the case of Park and The Handmaiden.

The plot is a fancy one, impressed by Sarah Waters’ 2002 novel, The Fingersmith, a Victorian story by which a handmaiden falls for her mistress. Park and co-writer Chung Search engine optimization-kyung take the premise of the story and set it in 1930’s Korea through the Japanese occupation, politicizing the already twisted love story. Two girls already from completely different courses, completely different nations, and completely different ethnicities discover one another in a Victorian residence, every making an attempt to dupe the opposite.

Girl Hideko, performed by an exquisite Kim Min-hee, is the trapped, cynical, and frigid Japanese girl who has been educated by her Uncle Kouzuki (Cho Jin-woong) to learn traditional erotica to audiences in order that he would possibly promote fakes of the books and preserve the fortune of Hideko’s household – alongside a plan to marry his her. This all unravels as soon as “Count” Fujiwara hatches a plan to marry Hideko, inherit her fortune, after which lock her in a madhouse. He enlists a famed pickpockets daughter Sook-Hee (Kim Tae-ri), to push Hideko into his arms so that each one works out to plan – which in fact it doesn't.

The Handmaiden entails love, lies, and deception amongst all 4 of those characters, and is break up into three items to totally discover all. The viewers initially follows Sook-Hee from the slums of Korea to the lavish and foreboding residence of Girl Hideko and Kouzuki, coming to grasp her creating lust and love her new mistress till the final second the 2 see one another. Then we soar again in time for Girl Hideko’s perspective on the romance, studying that issues weren't what they appeared.

Initially, nothing is what it appears on this movie. Appearances are deceiving. We see this most with Girl Hideko – she goes via a number of transformations all through the movie, and but she modifies little or no. It's about how she is offered to the viewers by Park. First naïve and silly, then cool and frigid, then evil and conniving, then lastly a hero. It's not solely the characters and plot that peel backwards, revealing what really lays beneath, the visuals match this pattern.

The deep colours of wooden, burgundy, and jade of the house by which the vast majority of the movie takes place in are luscious. Grand oil portraits and cherry blossom timber litter the grounds, interiors and exteriors of the house. The library is stuffed with well-loved priceless books. Costly tapestries and curtains hold from the partitions. Your complete house is grand and exquisite – nevertheless it's a lie. It acts as a cage, trapping Hideko amongst the finery. The library is a lie – the entire costly and uncommon books are fakes. The cherry blossom tree is a lie – it isn't an emblem of hope and Hideko’s residence of Japan – it's the tree her aunt hung herself from. The cherry blossom is an indication of demise and despair. Above all else the gilded cage that Hideko sits in is a disguise – it sits upon a basement that homes the ugliest terrors recognized to man. The basement is what makes folks go mad. That is alluded to from the second Sook-Hee first arrives on the home. The rolling blackouts that the top maid clarify to her are the primary indications of evil inside the home. The sunshine doesn't shine there completely. The evil will not be expressed totally till later however Park hints at its presence from the start.

It’s Park’s consideration to those particulars that permits a superb script to transcend to a poetic masterpiece. There are symbols in each scene, each set, each character – symbols that additionally double down as hints.

This isn't to say that The Handmaiden is all doom and gloom. It's removed from it. One of the vital hanging issues concerning the movie is its use of comedy within the darkest moments of the movie. In a single occasion, when Hideko makes an attempt suicide vis-à-vis the identical cherry blossom methodology of her aunt, and Sook-Hee saves her on the final second, each act very cartoonish. They make humorous faces, and even use bodily comedy to fake that Sook-Hee forgot about the truth that Hideko is hanging from her neck, and drops her for a second. That is true within the extra romantic scenes as effectively – of their first consummation of affection, Sook-Hee sees Hideko’s naked nipple and exclaims, “it’s so cute!” in a child voice. She then goes on to name Hideko’s nether areas “s-s-s-spellbindingly beautiful!” Your complete love-making session is express and calls to thoughts the humor in actual and true intercourse, by calling consideration to the comedy of it.

Park provides the 2 girls the depth wanted to giggle collectively within the face of monsters, demise, and rape.

To not say that Park sticks solely to actuality – he does with regard to his characters, however many parts of the movie lay far outdoors the lifelike with no rationalization as to why or how. In these moments Park solely provides us the what.

As soon as all involves mild, all bets are off. At no level does the sexual demonstrations that Girl Hideko performs with a picket dummy appear unlikely. Nor does the sexual act with the bells – the bells of freedom- that the women carry out within the final moments of the movie appear far-fetched. Once we lastly see what lurks on the depths of the basement it comes as a shock, certain, however we don't doubt Park at this level. The normal Japanese sexual torture gadget, that could be a large squid, suits on this world. As do the blue carbon monoxide cigarettes that trigger on the spot demise. We purchase this heightened and poetic actuality, no matter how darkish or fucked up it will get.

And we don't query Park – this director is so confident within the worlds and tales he creates that the viewers by no means doubts him.

In The Handmaiden Park weaves collectively black comedy, melodrama, and fantasy along with sexual sadism, Korean historical past, and lesbianism to create an intricately textured silk fabric. Lies and reality transcend actuality, giving us one thing else, one thing grand.

Ranking: 5/5


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