Grading The Handmaiden, scene by scene
Grading The Handmaiden
The Handmaiden is a poisonous and feminist tale from director Park Chan-wook, inspired by Sarah Waters’s 2002 novel, Fingersmith. With the setting transposed to 1930s colonial Korea and Japan, it is a gripping and sensual story 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 movie ever to win a BAFTA award for best foreign language film, was graded on Baselight by Park Jin-Ho, senior colourist at Cinemate in South Korea.
The colour grade was completed in two weeks. One of the key challenges for the colourist 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 explains. “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 Jin-Ho 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, renowned cinematographer 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.
To create the feeling of Joseon during the Japanese occupation of the 1930s, Chung Chung-hoon shot on the Arri Alexa, with 1970’s anamorphic Hawk lenses.
In the following descriptive Scene by Scene analysis, Park Jin-Ho guides us through some of his work on various scenes in the movie, accompanied by a selection of before and after visuals (use sliders and magnifiers to view).
Scene – In front of the rain at BoYoungDang
The first scene is a very cloudy day. In CG, storm clouds were added in the sky. Then, in the DI, I removed the warm tone of the original footage to better express the cloudy day. To make the tone of the characters colder, I removed the yellow colour and added blue that is close to white.