‘The Handmaiden’ is a movie directed in 2016 by Park Chan-Wook.

The film takes place during the thirties in South Korea at the time occupied by the Japanese Empire. It’s based on the novel ‘Fingersmith’ by Sarah Waters, published in 2002 and set in the late nineteenth century in the UK.

The film rotates on four characters described minutely, with high attention to detail. The spectator who is observant of particular symbolism will see the expression of extraordinary human level coming from the different personalities during the progression of the story.

While the film is possible to notice that not a single character prevails over the other, this gives the breath to each person, and that somehow makes them ordinary, despite the surrealism of some scenes.

The story begins with this shy Maid, hired by a fake Count who wants her to take care of a wealthy and beautiful heiress; she lives with her pervert uncle in a large villa.

However, this is not the truth: the maid, in reality, is a skilled thief, hired to make the heiress fall in love with the count, they will marry, and then he will lock her new bride in a mental hospital, then enjoy the inheritance.

The narrative divides into three sections: the first act is narrated with the Point of View of the maid, while in the second there is a change of perspective to the heiress.

The change of subject revolutionises the narrative, showing the real relationship between truth and fiction, which is reworked from each perspective. The director demonstrates the fallibility of the subjective technique that is taking the point of view of characters, can’t prove fallaciousness.

‘The Handmaiden’ is a thriller built entirely on the attempt of scamming from the fake Count. However, the other characters are very ambiguous too. In the movie, there is a psychological excavation in the twisted mind of the characters, where nobody seems free from traits of madness. Their undoubted intelligence and sensitivity are always at the service of evil, in a game where what’s surely missing is solidarity among human beings and where every character wants to prevail.

The lie is what unites them all, but the two women stand out as the most astute and able to grasp the right timing. It is undoubtedly that the central theme is eroticism as an expression of confrontation and conflict between the various characters.

Love is an indefinable and unpredictable feeling that does not follow established patterns. In the film, as in real life, this passion can be broken down and explained according to two approaches: the passionate and physically linked to sexuality and desire, or the Platonic one in which a series of romantic and intellectuals’ feelings are intimately related to the sphere of the soul and sentiment.

However, Love is known to be unpredictable. Between the waitress and the wealthy heiress, comes a strong feeling that soon becomes uncontrollable, the two girls want each other, and it is not just a physical attraction.

‘The Handmaiden’ shows the luxurious sphere of libidinous love understood in its primordial sense, that feeds on attraction, imagination and perversion.
Photo by Alexandru Acea on Unsplash

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