Updated: Jul 5, 2018
"Where I come from, it's illegal to be naive." - Sookee, The Handmaiden
Well, lock me up!
I’ve learned a valuable lesson: watch a trailer, read a synopsis, before going to see a movie, or you’ll be in for quite a treat. An unexpected, exotic, erotic, thrilling, dangerous treat with a tentacle ending.
Adapted from the novel 'Fingersmith' by Sarah Waters, The Handmaiden follows a young pickpocket, Sookee(Kim Tae-ri), and a Korean conman (Ha Jung-woo), who masquerades as a handmaiden and a Japanese aristocrat, to marry and con a wealthy heiress, Hideko(Kim Min-hee). However, Sookee soon finds herself sexually attracted to Hideko, and things get a little complicated and really shady.
I’d even say it’s a humorous piece, set in the 1930’s that keeps me guessing like 39 Steps(1935). It really has a Hitchcockian feel... with more naked people.
The movie is crazy, and Director Park Chan-Wook (Oldboy, Lady Vengeance, Thirst) is no stranger to crazy apparently, even if I am a foreigner to his works. There are so many working parts and storylines, yet each and every one was handled, explored, and explained to perfection. It remained the perfects parts thrilling, exotic, and comedic. An almost three-hour movie has never passed by me so quickly! I was kept on edge following the storyline down Wook’s cinematic rabbit holes. He keeps watchers in bondage, where nothing is revealed too quickly. Where he will show the same scene from multiple perspectives, adding a new layer to the story each time. Gives you time to build a relationship with each character. I loved how the movie was split into multiple parts; each told from a different character's perspective that slowly pieces things together through flashbacks, each with its own little twist at the end. There were times when it was almost as if I was watching a dream, stuck between the realities and fantasies of each character.
The shots in the movie were astonishing and truly beautiful. The scenic shots and camera angles make the film look like a moving work of art. A gorgeous Gothic mansion, as the setting, paired with the bright and airy gardens surrounding it created a feeling of duality through the whole movie. There would be times when the camera would briefly hold a shot a little long, letting the audience take in the entire setting and scene.
Which also bring me to the costumes. It’s set in the 1930s, so there has to be some on point period clothing. And, some of those costumes were just breathtaking to look at. Between the clothes and the cinematography, it was a beautiful movie. Even the musical score was perfect. It made me long for a violin, with its subtle yet strong emotions that paired wonderfully with each scene.
Look, I can’t finish this without commenting the full on sex. Parts of them are so artistic that you almost forget what is going on on-screen. The scenes feel awkward, long and slightly uncomfortable, but only for a couple seconds before one sees past it. But, I will say, though long, each one served a purpose in that it explored a new perspective from each of the characters and revealed vital information in each.
There really was nothing major that needed to be cleaned up or cut from the movie.
FLOOR OR DOOR?
Should it have been left on the cutting room floor or should you be running out the door to see it?
I honestly can’t say I haven’t enjoyed a movie more. I was there along for the ride without any expectations. And, it lived up to any I could’ve had. If you get the chance to see it in theaters while it’s still there, go! The audience “participation”(laughs, gasps, etc.) makes the experience even better.
I might have to stop watching previews and reading synopsis before going to see a movie... I might've missed out on this one.
The Handmaiden is definitely a Golden Door.