‘The Handmaiden’ is the latest movie by South Korean master Park Chan-wook, best known for his 2004 Cannes Grand Prix winner ‘Old Boy’.
Inspired by Sarah Waters’ best-selling novel ‘Fingersmith’, Park, who co-wrote the screenplay, transports the story from late-nineteenth-century England to 1930’s Korea.
Euronews’ Frederic Ponsard caught up with the director at the recent Lumiere Film Festival in Lyon.
“The film is set in a time when there were huge differences between social classes – between the very rich and the very poor. The second important element in the film is the psychiatric hospitals. That period, between the two world wars, is the only time in Korea’s history when those two elements co-existed,” Park told us.
‘The Handmaiden’ tells the story of a young Korean pickpocket drawn into a double-cross by a gentleman-swindler to defraud a rich Japanese heiress. Things don’t exactly go as planned when the two young women fall in love.
“I didn’t want the emphasis to be on the male characters but on the two women,” said Park. “For their love to be possible, they have to overcome both their class difference, but more crucially, the fact that they come from two countries that have long been a war, Japan and Korea.”
A treat to the eye with exquisite costumes and decors, the movie is divided into three parts, and is filled with suspense, humour, horror and eroticism as the two main protagonists fall in love.
“I hadn’t planned on making a film about love,” Park said. “But I was lucky enough to read this novel about a love story between two women. That’s when I decided to adapt the novel. The central them is love, but psychological violence is very present in this movie as is physical violence.”