Director: Chan-wook Park.
Starring: Min-hee Kim, Tae-ri Kim, Jung-woo Ha. South Korea 2016. 167 mins. Korean with English subtitles.
After shooting his first English-language feature in 2013, the Nicole Kidman-starring Stoker, acclaimed South Korean director Chan-wook Park reverts to his native language for the erotically charged psychological thriller The Handmaiden. Those familiar with the popular director’s films will be glad to know that Park’s penchant for studied framing, black humour and dark subject matter is present and correct. Inspired by, rather than adapted from, Sarah Waters’s 2002 novel Fingersmith, The Handmaiden switches the Victorian England setting for that of Korea under Japanese colonial rule in the 1930s. Featuring stunning period production design by Seong-hie Ryu, The Handmaiden is a deliciously twisty tale of revenge, centring on an heiress, her con man uncle and the lady-in-waiting for whom she begins to fall. A real feast for the senses, and as stylishly executed as one would expect from Park, this thriller will leave audiences swooning at the power of both the imagery and the storytelling.