The Handmaiden is the latest film from acclaimed Korean director Park Chan-wook (Oldboy, Stoker) and stars Kim Tae-ri as a young woman from a poor background named Sook-Hee who becomes maid to Kim Min-hee’s wealthy Lady Hideko. We don’t want to say too much more about this twisty thriller, but we can reveal that one crucial scene finds Hideko’s maid ministering to her ladyship as she bathes — and while the sequence is not technically explicit, it loudly hums with erotic charge.
“I remember I had two big surprises that day,” the filmmaker says of shooting the sequence. “The first is when we began shooting, the actress that plays Sook-Hee, Kim Tae-ri, seemed strangely nervous and the way she was delivering her lines was coming across as almost stagey. The performance wasn’t natural so I pulled her aside and asked what was wrong. She thought about it for a bit, then simply said, ‘I don’t know,’ and asked to try again. The second surprise was that, just like that, she transformed and delivered a brilliant and natural performance.”
“Another memorable moment for me that day was when we were shooting the dolly back shot at the beginning of the scene, where we’d start from the angle with the bathroom doorframe through which you see the walls of Hideko’s bedroom, and pull back until the bathtub, then the two actresses enter into the frame,” he continues. “We were filming that shot on the soundstage and I noticed the way the light was hitting the furniture, and wallpapers, and made the room for a moment look exactly like a Vermeer painting. In amongst everything that was going on around me, I was personally having this very quiet, and very surreal, moment.”
The Handmaiden costars Ha Jung-woo and Cho Jin-woong. The film is being released by Amazon Studios and Magnolia Pictures Oct. 21.
See the trailer below and the scene featuring Kim Tai-ri and Kim Min-hee above.
Reporting by Joe McGovern