The Handmaiden ★★★★½

this film was such a thoroughly enjoyable experience, mainly due to a plot as densely layered and absorbing as the myriad schemes its characters form.

Park Chan-Wook took one of my favourite novels and made it even better - his choice to deviate from the original plotline halfway through the film's second act made the story that much more intriguing, as well as further enriching the genuinely sweet love story at the film's core.

moreover, the constant interplay between Japan as a dominant colonial force and Korea as a subservient culture added another fascinating layer: the power dynamics between those who speak Japanese and those who speak Korean broadened the film's range, as did the evident fascination of the Japanese upper class with all things Western. Park's juxtaposition of a faux-English mansion with Japanese-style servants' quarters is effective in illustrating these conflicting cultural dynamics, while the lamp-lit interior of the mansion provides a wonderfully Gothic atmosphere (a subtle reminder of the novel's setting in Victorian England).

The Handmaiden is a genuinely atmospheric and satisfying film - its twists and turns are ultimately justified, its two protagonists are complex yet sympathetic, and it's visually stunning from start to finish. i can't believe it hasn't already won exactly 37673683 awards???

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