Case Studies

Grading The Handmaiden - scene by scene

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Inspired by Sarah Waters’s 2002 novel, Fingersmith, The Handmaiden is a poisonous and feminist tale from director Chan-Wook Park.  Having been transposed to 1930s colonial Korea and Japan, Park presents a gripping and sensual tale of a young Japanese lady living on a secluded estate, and a Korean woman who is hired to serve as her new handmaiden, but who is secretly involved in a con-man's plot to defraud her of her large inheritance.

The film, which is the first Korean film ever to win a BAFTA award for best foreign language film, was graded by Park Jin-Ho, Senior Colourist at Cinemate in Korea.

The colour grade was completed in two weeks. One of the key challenges for Park was to express the wet and humid weather after the rain. “It was difficult to recreate the sense of a wet and muggy scene on the screen,” he explained. “I found it really useful to mix several grades in one stack. It meant I could catch a thought and grade immediately before the idea disappeared, then blend it into the overall grade.”

Park has worked on several movie projects with director Park Chan-wook since his time as a junior colourist and he also has plenty of experience working alongside Park Chan-wook’s partner, DOP Chung Chung-hoon. This close relationship meant that when The Handmaiden project started, he was able to join in discussions at the pre-production stage, which gave him time to test and adjust the camera and lens characteristics that had been chosen by the DOP in advance.

Chung Chung-hoon used the Alexa camera and vintage lenses to try to create the feeling of Joseon during the Japanese occupation of the 1930s.

In this descriptive ‘scene by scene’ analysis, Park takes us through some of his work on various scenes in the movie, accompanied by a selection of before and after visuals.

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“The combination of camera and lens clearly differentiated The Handmaiden from other movies in terms of texture. I thought it might be just one specific look, but it was the best reflection of the texture of film in the digital age as I have ever seen.”


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