The Handmaiden (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

February 5, 2017 by  

At times humorous, at times quite dark and many times erotic and sexually charged, Chan-wook Park’s “The Handmaiden” is a unique and intelligent film that I highly recommend!

Images courtesy of © 2016 CJ E&M  Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: The Handmaiden


DURATION: 145 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 2:39:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, Korean 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio, Subtitles: English, English SDH and Spanish

COMPANY: Amazon Studios/Sony Pictures Studios Home Entertainment

RATED: Not Rated

AVAILABLE ON: January 24, 2017

Inspired by the novel “Fingersmith” by Sarah Waters

Directed by Chan-wook Park

Screenplay by Seo-kyeong Jeong, Chan-wook Park

Produced by Jose Ibanez, Carter Logan, Fernando Sulichin

Executive Producer: Jon Kilik, Serge Lobo, Robert S. Wilson

Edited by Affonso Goncalves, Adam Kurnitz


Min-hee Kim as Lady Hideko

Tae-ri Kim as Sook-Hee

Jung-woo Ha as Count Funiwara

Jin-woong Jo as Uncle Kouzuki

Hae-suk Kim as Miss Sasaki

So-ri Moon as Aunt of Lady Hideko

From PARK Chan-wook, the celebrated director of OLDBOY, LADY VENGEANCE and STOKER, comes a ravishing new crime drama. PARK presents a gripping and sensual tale of two women – a young Japanese Lady living on a secluded estate, and a Korean woman who is hired to serve as her new handmaiden, but is secretly plotting with a conman to defraud her of a large inheritance. Inspired by the novel Fingersmith by British author Sarah Waters, THE HANDMAIDEN borrows the most dynamic elements of its source material and combines it with PARK Chan-wook’s singular vision to create an unforgettable viewing experience.

In 2002, Sarah Waters wrote the historic crime novel “The Fingersmith”.

Over a decade later, a South Korean erotic psychological thriller inspired by “The Fingersmith” titled “The Handmaiden” and directed by Chan-wook Park (“Oldboy”, “Lady Vengeance”, “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance”) and co-written by Park and Seo-kyeong Jeong (“I’m a Cyborg, but That’s OK”, “Thirst”, “Lady Vengeance”).

The film stars Min-hee Kim (“Right Now, Wrong Then”, “No Tears for the Dead”, “Helpless”), Tae-ri Kim (“Moon-young”, “Who Is It?”), Jung-woo Ha (“Chaser”, “The Berlin File”, “The Yellow Sea”), Jin-woong Jo (“The Admiral”, “Assassination”, “Nameless Gangster”), So-ri Moon (“Oasis”, “A Good Lawyer’s Wife”, “Peppermint Candy”) and Hae-suk Kim (“Thirst”, “The Throne”, The Thieves”).

The film would receive critical acclaim and  now will be released on DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

“The Handmaiden” is told in three parts and is set during the Japanese occupation in Korea.

We are introduced to Sook-Hee (portrayed by Tae-ri Kim), a thief who is from a family of con artists and Count Fujiwara (portrayed by Jung-woo Ha), also a thief.  Both plan to steal from Japanese heiress Lady Hideko (portrayed by Min-hee Kim), as Sook-Hee was hired to become Lady Hideko’s new maid.  Count Fujiwara’s plan is to marry Lady Hideko but needs Sook-Hee’s help to make it happen and also to find a way to have Lady Hideko committed to an asylum.

We also learn of how Lady Hideko is controlled by her authoritarian Uncle Kouzuki (portrayed by Jin-woong Jo), who is into erotica and uses fear and torture to have control of Lady Hideko, scaring her by reminding that she should not forget the basement.

At first, Sook-Hee was sticking to her plan of getting close and doing her job around Lady Hideko but the more they spend time with each other, both women become attracted towards each other and eventually, become passionate towards each other.

As Sook-Hee’s job is to push Lady Hideko to marry Count Fujiwara, she becomes more jealous and is more reluctant to follow through with the plan.

As Lady Hideko wants to know if she should go through with the marriage, Sook-Hee tells her that she should but it upsets Lady Hideko.

Meanwhile, both Count Fujiwara and Lady Hideko are married and Count Fujiwara becomes wealthy.  But as the three travel to the asylum, to Sook-Hee’s shock, they committed her, not Lady Hideko to the asylum.

But everything is not as it seems…


“The Handmaiden” is presented in 2:38:1 Anamorphic Widescreen and Korean 5.1 Dolby Digital. Picture quality is good (as good as it can get on DVD) and I was quite shocked that the film was not available on Blu-ray.  For the most part, cinematography by Chung-hoon Chung is fantastic!  Audio is primarily dialogue-driven but surround channels capture the ambiance of the film.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and Spanish.


“The Handmaiden” comes with no special features.

As I watched “The Handmaiden”, I felt that this sexually-charged erotic thriller gives every viewer the opportunity to see filmmaker Chan-wook Park work his magic in another fantastic film!

The film, which is broken into three parts, no doubt will surprise viewers but also entertain them by its wonderful screenplay but also the cinematography and directorial excellence of Chan-wook Park.

From storyline to cinematography, everything from how everything is orchestrated, planned and written made “The Handmaiden” one of the top films I have watched for 2017.

The acting by Min-hee Kim and Tae-ri Kim and having to perform sex scenes together and make it seem realistic and erotic, definitely will keep viewers on their toes.

Multiple twists, a lot of backstabbing but the story was intelligently written and each scene was well-done.

The first part of the film sets you up for a shocking betrayal, but the next part will shock you because you are surprised about character motivations and how things were thoroughly planned.  Leading to a final part that will shock you but at the same time, after it’s all done, realizing you just watched an amazing film!

As for the DVD, it’s a barebones DVD release unfortunately.  But I hope that doesn’t sway people because it’s a wonderful film.

At times humorous, at times quite dark and many times erotic and sexually charged, Chan-wook Park’s “The Handmaiden” is a unique and intelligent film that I highly recommend!

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