Complex, original, affecting, stylish, the work of a man who is at the top of his craft as a director. Park Chan-Wook’s The Handmaiden might be his most mature film to date and that is saying something when one takes a look at his filmography.
OVERALL SCORE – 5/5
The Handmaiden is a 2016 Korean erotic thriller directed by Park Chan-Wook, written by Park Chan-Wook and Chung Seo-Kyung and stars Kim Min-Hee, Ha Jung-Woo, Cho Jin-Woong and Kim Tae-Ri. The film takes a deep dive into the lives of its four main characters when one of them goes in, to work as a handmaiden for an aristocratic young woman.
To say anything about the plot of this film would be doing a disservice to the reader. The film is meant to be experienced first hand and the film rewards the audience with multiple twists and turns for keeping their senses away from spoilers. This is an emotionally intelligent film with some of the most complex female characters ever put to film. The audience and the characters are put through the ringer with this story and being unsatisfied with it is a certain impossibility.
Park Chan-Wook’s trademark moves are all here yet again. The man is one of my all time favorite film-makers and every single of work of his I watch only reinforces my belief. The framing is immaculate, the shots are spellbinding, the camerawork is mesmerizing, the score is haunting, the performances are breathtaking and the fact that this film is not in the conversation for one of the best films of 2016 is heartbreaking. Park Chan-Wook and his team create a world within a world which the audience may well have never experienced. It is a deep dive into the human psyche and it is done is his own idiosyncratic and engaging style. Gushing about his direction is something I have done in the past but every new film of his has everything I adore about films. The dark humor is one of my personal winning moments throughout the film.The hypnotic imagery the viewer is subjected to from the first frame is a testament to how much effort one has put into making the film a sheer force of nature.
The plot is extremely intricate and the characters are fleshed out expertly with sure-handed writing helping the cause. The film dials back on Park Chan-Wook’s stylized violence but more than makes up for it with an exquisitely constructed and mature story. The film is gorgeous to look at and the production design is beyond excellent. The psychosexual themes might prove to be a stickler for some audience members but I can guarantee that this will be one of those erotic films which stay with you a long time after the end credits start rolling.
I have made a strong choice to keep this essay as vague as possible because any plot given away is going to add the audience not enjoying the film as much as they should. Trust the film and allow it to tell you its story. A rich and rewarding experience is on the other side of its 2-hour 25-minute runtime.
OVERALL SCORE – 5/5