Park Chan-wook’s latest film “The Handmaiden” premiered at the 69th Cannes Film Festival at the Grand Theatre Lumiere on Saturday evening. The film is in competition for the Palme d’Or prize.
At a press conference following the film’s press preview on Saturday morning, Park discussed his fondness for the unfamiliar.
“Countries like England, France, Japan, the U.S. and South American nations are completely different from the world I live in, which is why I have always had a curiosity for foreign literature,” said Park.
“The Handmaiden” is loosely based on “Fingersmith,” a novel set in Victorian Era Britain by Welsh novelist Sarah Walters.
“The most interesting thing about ‘Fingersmith’ was the dilemma of the characters. Their emotional dilemmas between guilt and love were interesting,” said Park.
Park’s rendition features Nam Sook-hee, an orphan pickpocket who is hired by Fujiwara, a Korean gold-digger posing as a Japanese count, to help him seduce Hideko, a wealthy Japanese heiress. The film is set in 1930s Korea under Japanese colonial rule.
“I thought it was time that a film was made about the inner, complex relationships between individuals, set during the Japanese occupation,” said Park. “What was important in ‘The Handmaiden’ was for the disparate elements to come together to make a strange atmosphere and harmony.”
“The film’s setting depicts a mansion that fuses British and Japanese architectural styles,” said Park. “The characters take off their shoes when they are moving from the British-style library to the Japanese-style living room, he added.”
“I wanted to make a new attempt at showing modernization and the jumble of cultures in 1930s Korea.”
For actress Kim Tae-ri, who plays the handmaiden Nam, the most important thing was to “show the detailed emotions” of her character. Kim Min-hee, who plays Hideko, said she focused on “how the heiress’ emotions change after meeting the handmaiden.”
Ha Jung-woo, who plays the count, wanted to highlight “the irony of a character who is bound by 1930s speech and Japanese dialogue but also familiar and free.”
“My character is a greedy portrayal of the strong desire for intelligence that everyone has,” said Cho Jin-woong, who plays Hideko’s uncle and guardian.
The film will open in Korean theaters on June 1.
Another Korean film, “Train to Busan,” directed by Yeon Sang-ho and featuring actor Gong Yoo and actress Jung Yu-mi, premiered at the Midnight Screening on Friday night at Cannes. Thierry Fremaux, the festival’s artistic director, reportedly praised the film as “the best Midnight Screening ever” and said that “Mr. Yeon must be in competition next time.”
Director Na Hong-jin’s “The Wailing” will screen on May 18 at Cannes in the Out of Competition section.
By Rumy Doo