Cammie Lambeth

Written by Cammie Lambeth

Modified & Updated: 03 Mar 2024

Jessica Corbett

Reviewed by Jessica Corbett


The Handmaiden is a critically acclaimed South Korean psychological thriller film directed by Park Chan-wook. Released in 2016, the movie has gained international recognition for its gripping storyline, stunning visuals, and exceptional performances. Set in the 1930s during the Japanese occupation of Korea, The Handmaiden follows the story of a young Korean maid, who becomes involved in an intricate plot to deceive a wealthy Japanese heiress. With its intricate plot twists, mesmerizing cinematography, and captivating performances, The Handmaiden has captivated audiences around the world. In this article, we will delve into 48 fascinating facts about the movie, revealing behind-the-scenes secrets, interesting trivia, and hidden details that make The Handmaiden a true masterpiece of cinema.

Key Takeaways:

  • “The Handmaiden” is a visually stunning South Korean film that explores themes of deception, power dynamics, and sexuality, captivating audiences with its intricate plot and compelling performances.
  • The movie’s success has elevated Korean cinema on the global stage, sparking conversations about diverse storytelling and solidifying director Park Chan-wook’s reputation as a master filmmaker.
Table of Contents

The Handmaiden is a South Korean erotic psychological thriller film directed by Park Chan-wook.

The Handmaiden is a visually stunning film filled with mystery, tension, and unexpected twists. Set in 1930s Korea during the Japanese occupation, it follows the story of a con artist who poses as a handmaiden to a wealthy Japanese heiress.

The Handmaiden is based on the novel “Fingersmith” by Welsh writer Sarah Waters.

Park Chan-wook adapted the story of “Fingersmith” and gave it a Korean setting, adding his own unique visual style and storytelling techniques.

The movie received critical acclaim and won several awards, including the prestigious Palme d’Or at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival.

The Handmaiden was praised for its intricate plot, compelling performances, and stunning cinematography.

The film explores themes of deception, manipulation, sexuality, and power dynamics.

It delves into the complex relationships between the characters, blurring the lines between right and wrong.

The Handmaiden features a talented cast, including Kim Min-hee, Kim Tae-ri, Ha Jung-woo, and Cho Jin-woong.

The actors delivered captivating performances that brought the complex characters to life.

The Handmaiden is known for its beautiful and meticulous production design.

The stunning visuals transport viewers to a different era, immersing them in the lavish and opulent world of the story.

The movie’s screenplay is a remarkable blend of suspense, romance, and dark humor.

It keeps viewers on the edge of their seats, constantly questioning the motives and actions of the characters.

The Handmaiden challenges traditional gender roles and societal expectations.

It explores the agency and desires of its female characters, defying stereotypes and presenting a fresh perspective.

The film’s non-linear narrative structure adds to its intrigue and keeps the audience guessing.

Through flashbacks and multiple perspectives, the true nature of the characters and their motivations are gradually revealed.

The Handmaiden contains explicit sexual content, which serves as an integral part of the story’s exploration of power and desire.

However, these scenes are handled with artistic sensibility and are not gratuitous.

The film has a runtime of approximately two and a half hours.

This allows for a thorough development of the story and the gradual unfolding of the mysteries within.

The Handmaiden received widespread acclaim for its masterful direction and storytelling.

It is widely regarded as one of the best films of its genre and a standout in Park Chan-wook’s filmography.

The movie was a commercial success, grossing over $37 million worldwide.

Its critical acclaim and word-of-mouth buzz contributed to its box office success.

The Handmaiden showcases the beauty of Korean culture and traditions.

The film incorporates elements of Korean history and aesthetics, creating a unique and authentic setting for the story.

The Handmaiden’s plot twists are cleverly executed, keeping the viewers engaged until the very end.

The twists and turns in the story add layers of complexity and surprise, making it an exhilarating watch.

The Handmaiden is known for its attention to detail in costume design.

The lavish period costumes contribute to the visual splendor of the film and help transport viewers to the 1930s setting.

The movie’s original score, composed by Jo Yeong-wook, enhances the overall atmosphere and emotional impact of the story.

The haunting melodies and pulsating rhythms add an extra layer of depth to the film.

The Handmaiden’s success led to an increase in international recognition for Korean cinema.

It opened doors for other Korean filmmakers and showcased the country’s talent and creativity on a global stage.

The film highlights the power dynamics between the upper class and the lower class, as well as the colonizer and the colonized.

It offers a nuanced exploration of social hierarchies and the effects of oppression.

The Handmaiden explores the concept of truth and deception, questioning what can be believed and who can be trusted.

These themes are intricately woven into the fabric of the story, leaving viewers questioning their own perceptions.

The film’s cinematography is breathtaking, with each frame meticulously crafted and visually striking.

The use of lighting, color, and composition adds to the overall mood and tone of the film.

The Handmaiden seamlessly blends different genres, combining elements of romance, drama, suspense, and thriller.

This makes it a captivating and multi-dimensional viewing experience.

The movie’s title, “The Handmaiden,” refers to the main character’s role as a servant, but it carries deeper implications within the story.

It symbolizes the themes of manipulation and power dynamics that are explored throughout the film.

The Handmaiden employs a nonlinear storytelling technique, keeping the audience in suspense and constantly reevaluating their understanding of the narrative.

It adds to the overall intrigue and excitement, as viewers piece together the puzzle of the story.

The Handmaiden’s success sparked a renewed interest in Park Chan-wook’s previous works, such as “Oldboy” and “Sympathy for Lady Vengeance.”

It introduced a new audience to his unique storytelling style and cemented his reputation as a master filmmaker.

The film’s screenplay, written by Park Chan-wook and Chung Seo-kyung, is a testament to their skill in crafting a complex and gripping narrative.

The dialogue is sharp, the pacing is perfect, and every scene serves a purpose in advancing the story.

The Handmaiden’s themes of desire and sexuality are explored in a thoughtful and thought-provoking manner.

It challenges societal norms and offers a fresh perspective on the complexities of human relationships.

The movie’s editing, done by Kim Jae-bum and Kim Sang-bum, is seamless and enhances the overall storytelling.

The transitions between past and present are smooth, building tension and creating a sense of anticipation.

The Handmaiden has been praised for its strong female characters who are multi-dimensional and drive the story forward.

They defy stereotypes and showcase the complexity of women’s experiences.

The film’s use of symbolism adds depth to the story, allowing for multiple interpretations and layers of meaning.

From mirrors to butterflies, each symbol contributes to the overall thematic exploration.

The Handmaiden’s international success helped to elevate the visibility of Asian cinema as a whole.

It proved that movies from this region can captivate audiences worldwide and hold their own against Hollywood productions.

The Handmaiden showcases the talent of its production team, from the set designers to the costume department.

Their attention to detail helps to transport viewers to a different time and place.

The film’s twists and turns keep viewers guessing and engrossed until the very end, making it a truly thrilling experience.

It surprises even the most astute viewers and rewards them with a satisfying conclusion.

The Handmaiden’s success sparked conversations about the representation of LGBTQ+ themes in film.

It challenged traditional narratives and opened up discussions about the importance of diverse storytelling.

The movie’s careful balance of sensuality and suspense creates a unique viewing experience that appeals to a wide range of audiences.

It is a film that can be appreciated for its aesthetics as well as its storytelling.

The Handmaiden’s use of language, including Korean, Japanese, and even some English, adds authenticity to the story’s setting and characters.

The multilingual dialogue adds richness and complexity to the film.

The film’s marketing campaign emphasized the mysterious and alluring nature of the story, piquing the interest of potential viewers.

It generated anticipation and curiosity, contributing to the film’s success.

The Handmaiden’s cinematography was recognized with numerous awards and nominations, highlighting its exceptional visual storytelling.

The use of framing, camera movements, and composition all contribute to the overall cinematic experience.

The film’s exploration of power dynamics extends beyond the individual relationships of the characters and delves into larger societal structures.

It prompts viewers to question the power imbalances that exist in the world.

The Handmaiden features strong female friendships that are tested and evolve throughout the course of the film.

It showcases the complexities and dynamics of these relationships, breaking away from traditional narratives.

The movie’s soundtrack perfectly complements the visuals and adds another layer of emotion to the story.

From haunting melodies to intense compositions, the music enhances the overall viewing experience.

The Handmaiden’s narrative structure challenges the audience’s perceptions and encourages them to actively engage with the story.

It rewards attentive viewers with a deeper understanding of the characters and their motivations.

The film’s costume design expertly captures the fashion of the era, showcasing the opulence and grandeur of the characters’ lives.

Each costume is meticulously crafted to reflect the personality and social standing of the characters.

The Handmaiden’s success opened up opportunities for director Park Chan-wook to collaborate with international talent and work on global projects.

It solidified his reputation as a visionary filmmaker with a unique storytelling style.

The movie’s intricate plot requires multiple viewings to fully appreciate its intricacies and layers.

Each viewing reveals new details and nuances, making it a film that can be endlessly analyzed and discussed.

The Handmaiden’s screenplay takes risks and breaks conventions, resulting in a refreshing and unpredictable story.

It keeps the audience engaged from beginning to end, never allowing for a dull moment.

The film’s attention to historical accuracy adds another dimension to the story, grounding it in a specific time and place.

It captures the essence of the 1930s setting, providing a rich backdrop for the characters and their actions.

The Handmaiden’s success has solidified its status as a modern classic in Korean cinema.

It is a film that continues to be celebrated and discussed, cementing its place in film history.


Overall, The Handmaiden is a captivating masterpiece that combines stunning visuals, compelling storytelling, and outstanding performances. With its intricate plot twists, exceptional cinematography, and attention to detail, the movie keeps viewers on the edge of their seats from start to finish. It is a testament to the creative prowess of director Park Chan-wook and the talented cast.

The Handmaiden’s exploration of themes like love, betrayal, and power make it a thought-provoking and emotionally charged film. The seamless blending of genres, from romance to thriller, adds depth and complexity to the storyline, making it a truly unique cinematic experience.

If you’re a fan of psychological dramas that challenge conventions and push boundaries, The Handmaiden is a must-watch. Its brilliant storytelling, coupled with its visually stunning presentation, will leave you wanting more.

So, grab some popcorn, settle into your favorite chair, and prepare to be captivated by the mesmerizing world of The Handmaiden.


Q: Who directed The Handmaiden?

A: The Handmaiden was directed by Park Chan-wook, a renowned South Korean filmmaker known for his unique and visually striking films.

Q: What is the genre of The Handmaiden?

A: The Handmaiden is a psychological thriller with elements of romance and drama, combining various genres to create a captivating and thought-provoking story.

Q: Is The Handmaiden based on a book?

A: Yes, The Handmaiden is based on the novel “Fingersmith” by Sarah Waters. However, the movie adaptation takes creative liberties and adds its own unique twists and turns to the original story.

Q: What is the runtime of The Handmaiden?

A: The Handmaiden has a runtime of approximately 144 minutes or 2 hours and 24 minutes.

Q: Has The Handmaiden won any awards?

A: Yes, The Handmaiden has received critical acclaim and has won numerous awards, including the Grand Prix at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival and the Baeksang Arts Award for Best Film.

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