“The Handmaiden”: Park Chan-wook’s intense thriller

A debut trailer for “The Handmaiden” has been released ahead of its world premiere at Cannes International Film Festival.

The highly anticipated film adapts Sarah Waters’ crime thriller “Fingersmith,” transplanting its writhing, conspiratorial plotline from Victorian era Britain to 1930s Korea which, at the time, was under Japanese rule.

Key plot points remain the same: an orphan girl is sent to help a well-dressed gentleman trick a rich but isolated woman out of her inheritance. Matters are complicated when the two young ladies discover a mutual attraction for each other.

“Fingersmith” was shortlisted for both the Man Booker Prize and Orange Prize upon its publication in 2002, but South Korean director Park Chan-wook has hardly been short of acclaim over two and a half decades in film.

Military thriller “Joint Security Area” established him as a force in Korean cinema, shattering national box office records with only his third film.

But it was “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance” and its cocktail of gruesome justice that ensured his place as a modern auteur in world cinema.

Chan-wook followed up the 2002 boundary-pusher with “Oldboy” the following year — a film which was fêted in Asia and recognized at Cannes with the festival’s Grand Prix — and concluded his thematic three-parter with “Sympathy for Lady Vengeance” in 2005.

He then turned to horror with another Cannes victory, 2009’s “Thirst,” and his first English-language production came in 2013 with “Stoker,” featuring Mia Wasikowska and Nicole Kidman as its female leads.

As for “The Handmaiden,” it too pulls in big name acting talent.

Leads Jung-woo Ha, Min-hee Kim and Jin-woong Jo have all won Best Actor accolades from the Baek Sang Art Awards, having accrued six Blue Dragon Award nominations between them.

And though “The Handmaiden” screens in Korean, with a domestic date set for June, distribution in 116 territories has already been tied down: all eyes are upon Cannes for first wind of the film’s qualities.

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