Working my way through potential Oscar contenders, or at least some of the most well received movies of 2016. First up, The Handmaiden.
Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden is touted as a psychological erotic thriller. I severely underestimated the “erotic” part of that description. I’m not bothered at all by eroticism, I was just caught off guard by the level of it in this film, and trust me when I say – do not watch this with anyone you wouldn’t watch a porn with. You’ve been warned.
Gratuitous sex scenes aside – this was beautifully done. The imagery is gorgeous and the story itself is masterfully crafted, as most would probably expect. If you’re a fan of mysteries, this is such a wonderfully twisty tale with an excellent payoff. So much of the story has erotic undertones, and then there are also the all out erotic elements. One of the characters is a collector of Japanese erotic literature, so the tone is a prevalent theme and piece of the story as a whole. At times the film is chilling and that is largely due to the excellent casting. Hats off to Min-hee Kim and Tae-ri Kim in particular. So many duplicitous performances here, executed beautifully in such a way that keeps the audience guessing throughout. While most of the onscreen sex lends itself to the narrative and the development of the characters, (the first major love scene in particular plays much more erotic than pornographic, and absolutely lends itself to the narrative in every way), there are at least a few moments that seem more gratuitous than they do necessary. But having said that, count me as a fan of this film. The twists are wonderful, the payoff is great, and the story as a whole is fresh and evocative.