The Handmaiden (DVD) – Movie Review
Follow Genre: Drama, Mystery, Romance
Director: Park Chan-wook
Distributor: Cinéart
Duration: 144 minutes

The Handmaiden (DVD) – Movie Review

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Rating: 8.0/10 (1 vote cast)

Loosely based on Sarah Waters’ novel Fingersmith, The Handmaiden tells the story of a wealthy but lonely woman and her poor but cunning maid. While the novel is set in the Victorian era in Britain, the film takes you to the Korea of the 1930s. When watching the film, you’ll soon find out that the setting isn’t the most important thing though, as the story is certainly very convincing in this completely different environment as well.

The Handmaiden

The story of The Handmaiden is divided into three parts. In part one, Sook-hee (Tae-ri Kim) takes the lead. She’s just a poor pickpocket in Japanese occupied Korea in the 1930s, stealing just to stay alive. One day, the leader of the gang (Jung-woo Ha), or so he appears to be, promises Sook-hee a job as the maid of the Japanese heiress Hideko (Min-hee Kim), be it under certain conditions. She’ll have to play along in the scam he’s about to set up. He plans to make Hideko fall in love with him by seducing her as the rich count Fujiwara, then marry her, put her in a mental institution and run off with all of her inheritance. Sook-hee is to help him achieve his goal by making Hideko believe that she has feelings for him. In return, she’ll get a share in the profit.

Hideko seems like a friendly lady when she and Sook-hee first meet, but she’s troubled by the suicide of her aunt and the tyranny of her uncle Kouzuki (Jin-woong Jo), with whom she lives. The two become good friends, and Hideko even lets Sook-hee wear her clothes and jewelry. Despite Sook-hee’s efforts, Hideko keeps being unsure about marrying count Fujiwara, as her feelings for him are cold. In a final effort to convince her, Sook-hee makes passionate love to her, telling her that that’s what she will experience with the count as well, once they are married. But all of a sudden, Sook-hee isn’t so sure anymore that she wants to go on with the plan.

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Part two of the story focuses more on Hideko’s experience, rather than that of Sook-hee. Hideko grew up under her uncle’s care. He made her read from his collection of books out loud for his guests, books that very vividly described all kinds of sexual fantasies. One of the men in the audience one day is count Fujiwara, who is hired by her uncle as an art forger, to replace missing images in his erotic books. He offers her a way out of the prison she’s in, coming up with a cunning plan that involves hiring a maid who is so silly that she will simply do anything for her. And that’s where Sook-hee makes her entrée once again… Part three we won’t discuss yet, as it would contain a lot of spoilers.

The Handmaiden is quite a lengthy film, yet the story isn’t that long. You basically watch the same story twice, but from different angles, which makes it both original and interesting. while sex definitely has a big part in this film, it doesn’t really offend or feel like it’s too much. You’ll definitely be treated to quite some explicit scenes, but in our experience, it didn’t take over the story. The story is still very interesting with a plot that twists more than once, to keep you on the edge of your seat. From part three on, we found the story becoming a bit too lengthy and violent though, which didn’t always seem to fit very well with the previous two parts, where cunning is more central than violence.

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The story only revolves around four characters, namely Sook-hee, Hideko, count Fujiwara and Hideko’s uncle Kouzuki. All of the actors were very convincing, but especially the youngest, Tae-ri Kim, proved to know very well what she was doing in her daring role.

When it comes to extras, this DVD release falls a bit short. The only special feature is the trailer of the film, which, in our opinion, can hardly be called an extra anyway. We didn’t mind it too much though, as the film itself is already quite lengthy, and you get plenty to see there already. Nonetheless, it would have been nice to receive some kind of inside information about the making of the film, or about the book by Sarah Waters on which the film is loosely based.


The Handmaiden is one of those films that seems to have a good plot already, and then changes it completely, catching you completely off guard. These plot twists keep the story from getting dull, despite its long duration. We loved this film from the beginning, almost until the end, but don’t let that spoil your fun, it’s definitely worth the watch.

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The Handmaiden (DVD) - Movie Review, 8.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

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