Park Chan-wook’s “The Handmaiden” Expresses Powerful Sexuality with Startling Style

Weird, exciting, and vibrant, Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden is an erotic tour through a world of subjugation, trickery, and betrayal framed by a bizarre love triangle.  The story was inspired by the novel Fingersmith by Welsh writer Sarah Waters, with Park and his co-writer Chung Seo-kyung adjusting the setting from Victorian England to Japanese-occupied Korea during the 1930s.  The structure of the film is cyclical, re-telling the story three times from different viewpoints and revealing new truths with each telling.  There’s an unreliability to the narrative, as truth and facade alternate with each new perspective.  But ultimately, The Handmaiden has an fervent romanticism about it, as the heart of the story is about love, sexual exploration, and self-discovery – all with a tinge of deviancy.

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