The Handmaid’s Tale
Release Year: 1990
Director: Volker Schlöndorff
Writers: Harold Pinter (screenplay), Margaret Atwood (based on her 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale)
Starring: Natasha Richardson, Faye Dunaway, Robert Duvall, Elizabeth McGovern, Aidan Quinn, Victoria Tennant, Blanche Baker, Traci Lind
In a poluted dystopian future in which parts of the U.S. is ruled by pseudo-religious fascists fertily has declined rapidly and fertile women are kept as so-called ‘handmaids’ in order to provide the elites with children.
Margaret Atwood’s paranoid feminist dystopia The Handmaid’s Tale has become very popular in recent years with the recent tv-adaptation, but some might remember that the novel was adapted to film in 1990. Among dystopian scenarios, the one in The Handmaid’s Tale has always struck me as rather ludicrous and silly. This transformation from the USA we know to suppresive dystopian regime apparently happens rather quickly after some catastrophe, and the religiosity portrayed in the story has so little to do with real life religion that only the most ignorant can believe that people would so easily adopt this new system. In the midst of this unsatisfactory world-building we find the character of Offred (Natasha Richardson), who is given a backstory and real name (Kate) for the film. She is sent to the Commander of the new regime (Robert Duvall) to provide him with an heir, but the problem might be more on the side of the Commander than the numerous handmaids he and his wife have gone through. Needless to say he is a hypocrite, but so is Offred in some ways, as her late husband and daughter is quickly forgotten when she begins a sexual relationship with an attractive young man. The story itself is okay, but as mentioned before the world-building is weak and so, sadly, is the characterization. We never really get a feel for any of the characters. The movie is obviously meant to shock, but that would have been easier if the premise had been more realistic. While it is obviously meant to be a commentary of the political climate of the 1980s, it instead ends of being somewhat insulting to mankind in general, but Christians and women in particular. Best give this a pass unless you are a big fan of Atwood’s novel.
The lead role of Kate/Offred was offered to Jodie Foster and Sigourney Weaver, the latter had to drop when she became pregnant with her daughter.
Picture Copyright: MGM