The Handmaiden (Ahgassi)




Updated on: 22/07/2021

Something led you to this movie. A picture, a title, the very fascination for the Eastern culture, so many reasons I can think of but personally, I had just one. History. I had to feed my hunger for their rich background, and Ahgassi aka The Handmaiden gave me just that. Two and a half hours of living the lives of characters set in the 1930s and experiencing how it may have been back then.




The Handmaiden (Ahgassi)

The Handmaiden Cast



I, Hatsumomo Mie, am here to introduce you to the culture of the Eastern world, more closely, Korea in the early 1930s. I saw this movie twice and I will watch it again. My reason isn’t the nudity or some other not so obvious reason. It is because I love the Eastern world and their history, so different than the Western world. So ancient and rich with symbols, myths, beliefs and other peculiarities. Korea is an uprising country in many different ways – emerging Kpop groups, various movies coming to light and other forms of art. And I am here to help Korean producers remind people of their history or variation of history. Of the past, that once was and will be remembered. Let me lead you into the world of Aghassi movie.



The year 1930, Korea.

The Handmaiden or Ahgassi in Korean, is a South Korean movie directed by Park- Chan – wook in 2016. He is also known for his Thirst, Joint Security Area and The Vengeance Trilogy (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, and Lady Vengeance).

This particular piece is categorized as a psychological erotic thriller. And it is stated that Ahgassi was inspired by the novel Fingersmith by Sarah Waters.


Count Fujiwara and Lady Hideko - The Handmaiden (Ahgassi)

Count Fujiwara and Lady Hideko – The Handmaiden (Ahgassi)


The Handmaiden is happening in Korea under Japanese colonial rule and the story revolves around a young girl named Soo-Hee.  Her role is to be a handmaiden to Hideko. Hideko happens to be a Japanese heiress living a lonely life between her four walls with a dominating Uncle Kouzuki. And they live on a large estate in the countryside. But there is a plot twist – Hideko is the victim here when her handmaiden Sook-Hee and con man Count try to follow their plan. And the plan is to seduce the heiress which is to be done by her handmaiden. After they succeed, they will try to strip her of her fortune and send her to the asylum.


In the story, you encounter characters with rich personal history. They come to life and pop out of the screen just how believable they are. Ahgassi Sook-Hee was a pickpocket her whole life and that is the only way of life she is familiar with. Inhabiting an estate with valuable objects can sure prove tempting! Hideko’s uncle collects erotic literature and throughout the movie, you get an impression of a dominant man. Pleasure for erotic artwork consumes him completely and feeds his sexual hunger.

Hideko, on the other hand, is his opposite. Her appearance gives a false impression, at first sight, seeming dumb and willing to obey. Other characters treat her like a porcelain doll but she is more than that. She sees all around herself and is capable of finding out the truth and reversing it to her advantage. A man connected to ahgassi Sook-Hee is a swindler pretending to be a Japanese Count going by the name of Fujiwara. He hired her because Hideko seemed like a proper bird with rich feathers which he could steal and strut around. But this is an erotic movie and things always need to complicate even more!


Ahgassi and Lady Hideko - The Handmaiden (Ahgassi)

Lady Hideko – The Handmaiden (Ahgassi)



Things you might like in this movie: lesbianism, erotic scenes, nudity, the 1930s, multiple storylines, hanging, torture, books, Japanese, Korean…

Things you might not like in this movie: lesbianism, erotic scenes, nudity, the 1930s, multiple storylines, hanging torture, books, Japanese, Korean…



Again, it depends on an individual if he/she considers this movie worthy of watching or is it just another attempt to sell sex on screen. Personally, I enjoyed the movie and it is much more than just an erotic picture. The Handmaiden shows the life of dying nobility in a world where the working class is taking over the way of life. It shows the Japanese occupation of Korea, male domination, women trying to survive in a world where real working skills put you in the middle of a working community. Necessity replacing innocence and so much more. And I’ll just state this so that it is clear, Ahgassi is not a family movie and it is filmed for an audience older than 18 years, though it is not technically rated on IMDB.

It carries certain value and we should give this movie a chance. It is time for foreign movies to come to life. I don’t mean like French, German or Spanish speaking movies. But those coming from Eastern countries like China, Japan or Korea or the ones from Balkan region or Africa. They give a fresh input to the filming industry and you will surround yourself with various cultures which can only enrich you. And they make you become aware of different aspects of culture that you didn’t notice before. Consider it a butterfly effect, you never know and probably will never find out but you could help out in many ways. For example, induce development of arts organizations that might bring money to less developed countries or even make someone recognize a true masterpiece.



The Handmaiden Poster

The Handmaiden Poster


The Handmaiden is a movie which won numerous awards. For example, BAFTA Film Award as Best International Film, AWFJ EDA Award, Asian Film Award for Best Supporting Actress, Best Newcomer, Best Production Designer, Best Costume Designer, Best Screenwriter, Best Editor and many, many others! The Handmaiden earned over 37,7 million dollars. Many familiar faces appeared like Min-hee Kim (Lady Hideko), Jung-woo Ha (Count Fujiwara), Jin-woong Jo (Uncle Kouzuki) and a new face, Tae-ri Kim (Sook-Hee)


To sum up, from my part, give the Handmaiden a look, you might like it! And if you enjoyed this article, bounce to Korean Drama W: Two Worlds Review or Survival Suspense Shounen Manga “Madmen” – Volume One Releases. to see interesting articles from other fascinating writers on this page.


Chan - Wook Park - The Handmaiden

Chan – Wook Park – The Handmaiden

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