Secret Cinema X returns with Park Chan-Wook’s The Handmaiden
Having arrived in your formal best, a notepad and pen to hand, and the coy reminder from a Korean servant that absolute silence is demanded of you, there’s a certain level of anticipation that builds as you step through the blackout curtains and down the dimly lit stairs, the paper lanterns on each step guiding your way to a backdrop of haunting Japanese music.
This is nothing but the beginning of your journey, and with one last stairwell, guests enter the stunning main foyer. Secret Cinema has certainly made a name for itself with its quirky and charming film experiences, that bring a level of theatricality and audience interaction to film nights. The venue, Troxy, is a gorgeous Grade II-listed Art Deco building in East London, and for this showing, it was transformed into a 1930’s Japanese-Korean mansion.
Just below the stage and screen, sits a library section and servants in simple kimonos lead guests to their seats. All, observe the strict house rules of silence enforced by the master of the house, who stands on stage and delivers his monologue, reiterating the evening is to be one of silent reverie. Before the film begins, live music is played and guests are free to wander to the bar and stands offering bento boxes and Mochi – little Japanese ice cream balls.
Once the film begins it’s clear what has influenced the setting. Park Chan-Wook’s The Handmaiden, is a story of a forbidden romance between a Japanese noblewoman Lady Hideko and her handmaiden Sookee, which takes place mostly in a Japanese-Korean Mansion.
The film is a visual masterpiece that explores sexual appetite, betrayal, and offers a healthy dose of humour that hits the right marks, particularly for a picture with subtitles. Elements of the sexualisation in The Handmaiden make their way into the evening’s participation, such as the encouragement to write notes of adoration to other guests, and the constant reminders to find a partner for the night.
For a night centred around film, Secret Cinema doesn’t always give the best screen experiences. Our table, while great for the meal, forced us to crane our necks to the side once the show started. This wasn’t an issue for other seats, but it’s worth noting for when you are booking the pricey tickets. Despite the small hiccup though, it does offer a truly novelty night out, and a charming story to tell your friends the next day. If you are after more than your standard film night, and you like the concept of being part of the story, then it might just be one to check out.
Photos: Secret Cinema