The Handmaiden

The Handmaiden ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Okay, so basically, I finished Fingersmith (the novel) last night, and thought I'd rewatch The Handmaiden to see if I had some more thoughts.

Here are my thoughts (spoilers for Fingersmith if you were planning on reading it, which you should actually if you like this movie):
-I prefer this film to the book, partly because it's shorter, but partly because I find the narrative much more satisfying and interesting. My favorite scenes/things in the movie--the reading, Hideko's relationship with her aunt, the hanging tree, the library destruction scene, the basement, Sookee and Hideko's team-up, and Sookee and Hideko's escape to Shanghai--do not exist in Fingersmith. That's fine, although it disappointed me when I read it. Honestly, it makes the movie even more special to me.
-The additions to the narrative are not just superficial in my opinion, they actually fix a problem I had with the novel, namely that the Hideko character (Maud) is kind of horrible. The novel takes a detour to show Sookee's (Sue, in the book) time in the mental hospital, and it is horrendously painful to read. The choice to have Fujiwara arrange for her death is actually merciful, because in the novel they just leave her there to rot and there is no team-up, so Sue has to escape on her own. It's not fun, and even though I felt bad for Maud initially, the section made me hate her and they never really recover. So, good on them for fixing that bit.
-The recurring element of characters repeating each other's words is one of my favorite things about this movie and its writing. For example, Sookee repeating Fujiwara's "spellbindingly beautiful" outburst in the midst of sex (in Japanese, no less). Both Sookee and Hideko do it, but I find it particularly interesting in the case of Hideko because it becomes clear that she is just as naive as Sookee is, only that she has read more. The characters learn from each other.
-I really need to stress how great of an addition Hideko's aunt is. In the novel, Maud is raised by nurses in a mental hospital before she enters the care of her uncle, who is a bachelor (and who I don't remember having plans to marry his niece, because in the book she is related to him by blood). I prefer the aunt character because it gives Hideko a glimpse into what she must imagine is her future.
-At the end of Fingersmith, it is revealed that Maud is writing her own erotica for money. I guess its supposed to be okay because she's reclaiming it for herself. You could argue that and I would grant you that, but it just rubbed me the wrong way. The movie's ending is much MUCH more satisfying for many reasons.

So, those are my thoughts. I know there is a proper adaptation of Fingersmith out there and I'm definitely going to look into watching that. I think adaptations are so fascinating. Happy Pride Month!

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