Paul Malikkal

Review

The Handmaiden (2016)

Paul Malikkal

Formally, this is the most impressive film I've seen from 2016. From the first frame to the last, it's clear we're in the hands of a filmmaker in total control of scale, depth, and movement. There are few directors working today who've developed a mastery of this caliber and can apply it towards such evocative ends. The technical mastery on display in The Handmaiden is matched by its structural mastery. It's a film about the deception that is itself deceives the audience time and time again. But the greater the ambition, the more reasoning is required to justify it, and during its second chapter, The Handmaiden provides such reasoning beautifully. Amid the perversity and deception, emerges a believable, and even touching romance. It seems that the film is suggesting that love can pierce through any facade, an idea that couldn't be conveyed without this twisty plotting. However, in the third chapter, Park Chan-wook places more emphasis on a rather juvenile revenge subplot, ending the film on a sour note, that didn't sit well with me. He seems to celebrate the act of exacting vengeance on your oppressors, over the act of finding love against all (and I mean all) odds. And I gained little pleasure from the masochistic sight of the antagonists "getting what they deserved".

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