The Handmaiden (Korean): artistic, strange, and well, graphic

in films •  6 months ago

Korean cinema strikes again and this film is something you definitely do not want to watch with your parents unless you have a very different relationship with yours than I do with mine.

it says 18+ for very good reasons

The story takes place in Japanese occupied Korea although the exact time is not made clear. It is a story of a poor Korean girl who works with people who dabble in not-exactly-legal practices like counterfeiting, pick-pocketing, and overall con artistry. One of the young girls in this con artist family is Sook-hee who has been selected to take part in an elaborate plan with a fake aristocrat named Count Fujiwara to seduce a Japanese heiress, get her to marry him, then have her committed into an insane asylum in Japan. Sounds difficult, right?

Well it is difficult to explain this movie without spoiling it so I will do my best to not do that.

Basically, the movie is told from 3 different perspectives and just once you think you know what is going on, it gets turned around on you. This is what I LOVE about Korean movies. For most of the Korean films I have bothered to watch the viewer never knows exactly how the story will end. This is extremely uncommon in Hollywood where 99% of the time you know the good guys are going to win, it is just a question of how.

You need to be made aware that this is categorized as an "erotic psychological thriller" - which in case you don't know, means there is going to be boobies and sexual situations in it.

The cinematography is just stunning, the music is perfect, the time-period costumes are all spot on, the set design is second-to-none, and the acting is flawless (and how difficult must it be to find people that speak Japanese and Korean but are also great actors?)

170 The Handmaiden (2016).jpg
the heiress is in the tub and the handmaiden is well, next to it

This movie is a bit long but to be honest I wouldn't say I was ever bored except maybe during some of the library sequences where the heiress' perverted uncle invites other rich people to listen to "erotic stories."

The film received almost entirely positive reviews and went on to win a bunch of awards in Korea and also (which isn't common) to win a bunch of international awards as well. This includes being nominated for 3 awards at the Cannes Film Festival and winning one of them.

This trailer doesn't really tell you a lot about the film because well, if they showed much more it wouldn't be allowed to air anywhere and also it really is hard to talk about this movie without spoiling the twists. This is the same reason that I have intentionally not said very much about it.

This movie is on a bunch of official critics top-ten lists of all time. It really is a good film unless you are a prude or will get in trouble for having boobies on your screen.

9 / 10

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TheHandmaiden is a masterpiece in pretty much every sense. It is visually exquisite, Costumes, production design, cinematography, music, all combine to create a lush vision of Japan-occupied Korea in the 1930s. Park Chan-Wook is a visually meticulous filmmaker and no film so far of his has showcased his knack for visual storytelling better than the Handmaiden. I went into this film totally blind, which I honestly recommend all people doing, because the plot itself unfolds in such a beautifully engineered fashion.


your wording is better than my own and very true. Thanks for contributing.


Yes, I fully agree! It is a narrative gem with all the elements working together pefectly. It is absorbing, cinematic, beautiful as well as traditional and modern piece of film making at the same time. Alongside Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut" and Verhoven's "Basic Instinct", it is one of the best erotic thrillers yet.

@gooddream and @kwadjobonsu, did you enjoy Chan-wook Park' "Oldboy" also?

This is the kind of movie that makes you blush watching it all alone


yep. agreed

I think I have the same (or similar)
kind of relationship with my parents as you do with yours.
Thanks for the warning. :-)
Your review has made me curious,
I think mostly because you seem to have good taste
(good taste = you have rated some movies that I
have enjoyed as highly as I have or would :-)

You actually get three excellent films for the price of one.

If you initially think you are watching a hyper styled, costume drama, then it turns out that they are serving you an amusing and highly naughty erotic thriller. Later on, you are looking at an in-depth psychological crime film. Amazing, isn’t it?

Although there are erotic scenes but this movie also has a positive value to be difficult to miss.
Like @gooddream

That's one beautiful thing about Korean movies, the twists are just too superb.

You can never understand until at least you see it to the end, the good guys might started bad and the bad started good. Hahahah

Their is no way you will not be emotional while watching Korean movies except you are not like me and many others....

9/10 rating is just a very good one... I hereby add it to the list of film to watch.

Thanks bud.

Well once more Korean movie review. I really like your reviews about Korean movies.
I myself am a big fan of Korean movies. You rated it 9 and that's pretty awesome. I think the plot and twists the Korean movies give are just amazing.
I think I need to watch this movie. Keep up the good work @gooddream.
Do check my latest post whenever you get free time


i am reading it now. Thanks for reading mine


Thanks a lot sir

@gooddream where did your love for international movies come from? I understand Korean movies, I've loved them since I watched Boys over flowers. But you review films from virtually all round the World...maybe except Africa. I think it's brilliant

I haven't watched the Handmaiden but I'll try and look it up to see if I can purchase online


i think we spoke about Boys over flowers before. My love of Korean cinema came from a relationship i was in with a Korean person.

@gooddream you review Korean movies too, that just too awesome. I love Korean bands and moreover I love the Korean horror movies. Looks like you really loved the movie, you gave it 9/10.
Makes me feel that I should watch this movie too. Well good work @gooddream, keep it up will be happy to see more.

I haven't seen the movie @gooddream but just went through that you wrote about the plot the cinematography and the rating and that 18+ part warning and it feels like a good one thanks again for your thoughts on the movie hope to get this movie online as this is not available in Indian cinema.


well, you are online right now so i have a solution for you. Especially since this film went through cinemas more than a year ago.

Their is no way you will not be emotional while watching Korean movies except you are not like me and many others....

9/10 that's a lot coming from you, this movie must very nice the only problem id have woukd be the titilations that it contains, most often i watch movies with my whole family so i guess i will have to watch this on my fon? Anyway thanks for the update and the headsup

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This movie is totally different from what I know of any Korean movies haha! Makes me curious. gonna watch this soon

Seems you watch more of korean movies. There is a series i saw some time ago and i think the title is Handmaiden too and the storyline seems different. I dont know if you have seen it?

Super correct, for something was selected as a Golden Palm at the Festival de Cannes 2016. I have always thought that Asian film production is the best in the world, without neglecting other work