You probably know him for his most popular film Oldboy, and to a lesser degree his English-language debut Stoker, but Park Chan-wook might as well be THE face of revenge thrillers. His films, most notably the Vengeance trilogy (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance) have been a staple of both Korean cinema and the revenge genre, mixing melodrama, black humor and a twisted subject matter that attract yet disgust audiences. It’s one of those rare moments in which a foreign director finds an audience in the mainstream Western medium, and now it appears his name is going to be well-known again. A trailer for the South Korean director’s latest film The Handmaiden, a collaboration between Magnolia Pictures, CJ Entertainment and Amazon Studios, has just been released, and its subject matter is just as twisted and intriguing as the rest of Chan-Wook’s work.
The Handmaiden tells the story of Hideko (Kim Min-hee) a Japanese heiress living in 1930’s Korea who is searching for a husband in order maintain her social position and estate. Seeing opportunity here, a con man named Fujiwara (Ha Jung-woo) recruits a pickpocket named Sook-hee (Kim Tae-ri) to help him woo Hideko. He convinces her to be hired by Hideko as the house maid, with the plan being to convince the Lady to marry Fujiwara, who is posing as a Japanese Count. It’s a standard “marry her to swindle the inheritance” type of story, but these plans go awry as Sook-hee and Hideko gradually fall in love with one another.
The best way to describe this trailer would be “stylish, yet unnerving.” This is probably the best way to describe any Park Chan-wook film, as everything he has a hand in is both visually intriguing, yet unsettling at the same time. Whether it be the visual imagery, the subtle themes or character actions, everything is set up to disgust and intrigue at the same time, all the while never reaching the point of “too far.” It’s one of those films you probably should watch at least once, but viewer discretion is definitely advised.
The Handmaiden debuted earlier this year at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival and is set for an October 14th release date.