• Golden Globe Awards

The Handmaiden (Korea)

Three years after his first Hollywood foray, Stoker, Park Chan–wook returns home with The Handmaiden, a filmset in 1930’s Korea, then under Japanese colonial rule (1910-1945). Lady Hideko (Kim Min-hee) is a Japanese noblewoman who lives in seclusion on the grand estate of her overbearing uncle Kouzoki (Cho Jin-woong), a libidinous collector of erotic literature who likes to have his niece read pornography aloud for potential buyers. Enter her new personal maid: Sookee (newcomer Kim Tae-ri), all angel face and black soul, who secretly plots with a con artist, the fake count Fujiwara (Ha Jung-woo), to defraud Hideko of her large inheritance once they have her committed to a mental asylum. But nothing goes as planned as the foursome gets into a highly complex maze of destructive and manipulative relationships fueled by an intricately sophisticated web of deceit, betrayal, duplicity and desire. Along the way, the manipulators will get manipulated in many perverted manners.Inspired by Welsh writer Sara Waters’s sapphic novel Fingersmith, which was set in the Victorian era, the film is at its core a sensual lesbian love story where mistress and servant end up reversing roles in the irresistible crescendo of their mutual overpowering attraction. At last empowered, the two women finally break free from the male domination that has enslaved them…It is also a way for the filmmaker to allude via the painful history between his country and Japan, still  a particularly sensitive subject for many Koreans. A quietly subversive political charge against the decadent collaborationist bourgeoisie of the time, so obsessed by imitating their oppressors that surely will resonate deeply with the Korean audiences.Count on the Old Boy director, known for his provoking and boundary pushing operatic tales of vengeance, to masterfully orchestrate, in a much less bloody way, this intoxicating story with a Rashomon-style narrative, distilling uniquely inventive sequences, some involving presence of an octopus, lollipops, an ink stained tongue, a finger massage to heal a toothache (!), a balancing sex act involving a wooden life sized puppet activated by ropes.“It’s a thriller, a dramatic story about swindlers and a battle of the sexes with several unexpected twists and above all, a celebration of love,” Park Chan-wook insists. “I wanted to show this through the two women who escape from male chauvinism and imperialistic oppression and who in the end are pursuing their own subjective pleasures which are not in the service of others.”