From the director of Oldboy comes The Handmaiden. Expectations lined up for two blocks. The Handmaiden, two pretty ladies, two gentlemen, one great production designer, a mystery thriller story where the audience is denied information. Of course it’s gradually revealed, what did you think?
Three chapters present the triangle of conflicts between the characters.
1 woman is rich, unconsoled and about to get married to her devilish uncle. The uncle is old, and has a thingy for porn literature, which woman #1 is forced to recite to him & his equally devilish buddies. A young man comes into scene - he’s a thief, out to seduce woman #1 into marring him instead, and thus get her fortune. For that, he uses woman #2 as a smoother, a trojan horse into the fried psychic of woman #1. We see her side of the story. Plan works, and part one is over. For part two, we go back to the beginning and see the same story from a different character’s perspective, and here I stop for fear of spoiling (it to) you.
Trouble is not in the narrative structure, but in the way it changes the tone of the film, from serious thriller to a farce. This has a rather confusing and distracting effect, where now you’re supposed to get satisfaction from the shifting charades and no longer from the mystery of it all. A comedy thriller of errors. Carlo Goldoni.
The film is visually distinctive, the rich sets and costumes create a beautiful harmony. The women’s erotical interaction creates a motif throughout the film, and their beauty, make-up and pale skin tone becomes an integral part of the production design.