Scams and betrayals abound in Park Chan-wook’s sly, seductive, and very loose adaptation of Sarah Waters’ 2002 novel “Fingersmith.” Though the book is set in Victorian London, Park relocates it to Japanese-occupied Korea in the 1930s, a change that proves surprisingly effective. The story, moreover, is of piece with his fascination with the theme of revenge, and responds equally well to the director’s brand of extravagant stylization; though devotees of “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance,” “Oldboy” and “Lady Vengeance” might regret the lack of sheer visceral excitement this time around (his English-language debut, “Stoker,” is best left unmentioned), even they should appreciate “The Handmaiden” as a rich, intoxicating epic of chicanery and deceit—a puzzle that entangles the viewer just as it does its characters.

The film is constricted as a triptych, which each third offering a differing perspective on the events. In the first, beautiful Nam Sook-hee (Kim Tae-ri), from whose perspective we first view things, is shown being sent to the estate of “the Jap” Kouzuki (Cho Jin-woong), an elderly man with a large collection of ancient erotic books. She is not, however, intended to be his mistress, but to serve as Tamako, the new handmaiden to the unstable Lady Hideko (Kim Min-hee), the heiress who lives in the mansion as Kouzuki’s ward—and the reader of stories from her guardian’s library to drooling groups of guests, well-heeled men who might choose to purchase some of the volumes. Hideko’s aunt (Moon So-ri), we eventually learn in flashbacks, performed the same function for her husband before killing herself.

It turns out, however, that Sook-hee, who is welcomed gruffly by the autocratic housekeeper Sasaki (Kim Hae-sook), is actually an orphan who had been raised as a thief by a Korean version of Fagin, and has been hand-picked by a master crook (Ha Jung-woo) to infiltrate the house. He, in turn, will come to the estate in the guise of Count Fujiwara, a purported art teacher to Hideko, and Sook-hee/Tamako will aid in his plan to seduce the young woman with the aim of securing her fortune for himself—and sharing the loot with his confederate.

Naturally the plot goes awry, and the following two chapters, told from the POV of Hideko and Fujiwara, show how. Though it would be unfair to reveal all the reversals and double-crosses, part of the stream of twists involves a romantic entanglement that is completely unplanned, and is portrayed in exquisitely sultry visual terms by Park and his cinematographer Chung chung-hoon. That same attention to atmosphere is evidenced in a final face-off, where Park’s characteristic revenge motif is revisited, with a cheeky nod to “Oldboy” in the process.

Park and Chung have a great deal to work with, it should be noted—not only the physical attributes of the three leads but the gorgeous production design by Ryu Seong-hee and costumes by Cho Sang-kyung. All is laid out in lapidary style by editors Kim Sang-bum and Kim Jae-bum, who keep to stately tempos that allow each plot turn to register while accentuating the elegance of the visuals, and Cho Young-wuk’s score adds to the tone of opulence. The cast acquit themselves ably, though one gets the impression they were all chosen more for their adaptability to the direction’s sense of composition than for their acting proficiency.

“The Handmaiden” is a visually voluptuous addition to Park’s oeuvre—a fable of deception and imposture that bears comparison to Hitchcock’s “Vertigo,” even if it doesn’t quite match it.