From Victorian England to Colonial Korea: Desire and Subversion in Chan-wook Park’s Ah-ga-ssi (The Handmaiden)
This chapter examines the Korean-language feature film Ah-ga-ssi (The Handmaiden) (2016), by South Korean director Chan-wook Park, in conjunction with its source narrative, the novel Fingersmith (2002) by British author Sarah Waters. It demonstrates how Park’s film subverts widely held assumptions about its historical and social contexts and power relations in Korean society. Like the novel, the film adaptation’s revisionist impetus draws attention to questions of gender, class, and the taboo subject of female sexuality. By transferring the time and place setting of the story from West to East, from Victorian England of the 1860s to 1930s Japanese-Occupied Korea, the film also provides a pretext for foregrounding the mimicry, but also ambivalence and hybridity, of colonial culture and identities.
KeywordsFingersmith The handmaiden Japanese occupation of Korea Victorian Oriental Hybridity
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