A sexually-explicit movie which divided Harrogate Film Society is finally set to be screened.
Directed by award-winning South Korean film director Park Chan-wook, The Handmaiden was meant to be shown last year at this popular group’s state-of-the-art home at Ashville College.
Despite receiving rave reviews, this acclaimed adaptation of Sarah Waters’ novel Fingersmith, found itself the victim of worries over its scenes of explicit lesbian sex and bouts of torture.
Director Park Chan-wook is best known for his 2003 international hit, the mystery thriller Old Boy.
Having first being chosen by Harrogate Film Society’s committee last spring, The Handmaiden will now be screened on Monday, February 5.
A beautifully played tale of shifting identities, forbidden love, and colonialism, the society's vice-chair Paula Stott admitted some members may find The Handmaiden a challenge.
But she is certain audiences will enjoy the latest work by such a respected international filmmaker.
She said: “The Handmaiden is on the BAFTA awards short list. Some of the audience might find viewing it a bit stretching but they will love its sumptuous cinematography and riveting story-telling.”
Run by a group of film enthusiasts in an informal, welcoming atmosphere, Harrogate Film Society was first launched in 1955 and is one of the few such societies in the north whose membership and attendances are both growing.
Although it prides itself on offering a wide range of films each season, it’s not the first time a particular movie has caused controversy in its ranks - albeit in a civilised way.
Before a screening of the Cannes Film Festival-winning Stranger by the Lake in 2014, informal complaints were made to HFS’s chairman Tony Thorndike.
Some members suggested this elegant French thriller’s hardcore sex shots filmed with body doubles were “not suitable” for a Harrogate audience.
Unafraid of intelligent debate, such issues surface occasionally at Harrogate Film Society’s annual general meetings, though usually with an outcome which ensures harmony is restored.
One of HFS’s leading members, the film book author Henry Thompson, said the society prided itself on appealing not only to ‘film buffs’ but the wider public.
He said: “I think the majority of the committee are committed to retaining the balance between art house and entertainment, although, in practice, only a small number of films each season could reasonably be labelled as art house or, indeed, ‘adult’ in theme.”
Chairman Tony Thorndike says be responsive to a broad cross-section of peoples taste is essential.
He said: “We like to offer something for everyone, not simply film buffs.
“We have a lot of members who’ve been with us a long time, ensuring out society has endured while others have folded.”
Part of Harrogate Film Society’s success is attributed to its emphasis on the social side of cinema, something that’s been enhanced by the superb facilities at Ashville College.
To that end, the screening of The Handmaiden will be accompanied by a special post-film discussion a week later.
The event will take place in the sociable surroundings of the North Bar’s upstairs room on Sunday, February 11 at 4pm.