Sarah Waters is one of the finest novelists working today. Her most recent novel, The Paying Guests, was one of my favorite reads in 2014, a tense, emotional, character-driven historical thriller. That was the book that turned me on to Waters’ work, which has for nearly twenty years been a benchmark in queer historical fiction. She first rose to prominence in late 90s and early 2000s after the excellent, well-received novels Tipping the Velvet and Fingersmith, the latter of which was adapted into a similarly popular BBC miniseries.
Fans of Fingersmith looking for a strict adaptation may want to go for that miniseries, because this new adaptation, called The Handmaiden, looks like it goes way off book. It’s listed as ‘inspired by’ Fingersmith, rather than ‘based on’ or ‘adapted from’, so expect some pretty serious diversion. That said, when those diversions are coming from Chan-wook Park, who has directed masterpiece after masterpiece after masterpiece, from the iconic Oldboy to his sensual American debut Stoker, I’m okay seeing what Sarah Waters’ novel inspired in him.
The Handmaiden changes the milieu from 1800’s England to 1930’s Korea, but the broad specifics of the story seem unchanged. Given how hypnotic this trailer is, and the quality of talent between Park and Waters, you can bet I’m in for this one. How about you?
The Handmaiden was written by Chan-wook Park and Seo-Kyung Chung, adapting Sarah Waters’ 2002 novel ‘Fingersmith’. Directed by Chan-wook Park, The Handmaiden stars Jung-woo Ha and Min-hee Kim.