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Handmaid's Tale
     

The Handmaid's Tale

Director: Volker Schlöndorff, Natasha Richardson, Robert Duvall, Faye Dunaway

Cast: Volker Schlöndorff, Natasha Richardson, Robert Duvall, Faye Dunaway

 

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Adapted by Harold Pinter from Margaret Atwood's prize-winning novel, The Handmaid's Tale is a chilling humanistic science fiction fable set in a not-too-distant future where evangelism has taken deep root. Dystopian science fiction films are nothing new, but here director Volker Schlondorff (who made the equally nightmarish The Tin Drum) plays down the

Overview

Adapted by Harold Pinter from Margaret Atwood's prize-winning novel, The Handmaid's Tale is a chilling humanistic science fiction fable set in a not-too-distant future where evangelism has taken deep root. Dystopian science fiction films are nothing new, but here director Volker Schlondorff (who made the equally nightmarish The Tin Drum) plays down the genre's preponderance for flash and dazzle (at lease when it comes to films), opting for character and story instead. The film was virtually ignored when originally released in 1990, so this DVD release is a perfect opportunity for a new life. MGM Home Entertainment's disc looks fantastic, offering up the film in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 (enhanced). The transfer is excellent and nicely shows off the frequent use of red in the color palette. The use of red is as symbolic as Bergman's use of it for his masterpiece Cries and Whispers. And though this film in no way reaches the sublime heights of Bergman's classic, it nevertheless utilizes color as subtext in an interesting manner. The disc has been given an English stereo surround track as well, and multiple subtitle options. The film's original theatrical trailer has also been included.In this dystopian fable, a librarian wife and mother becomes the childbearing pawn of a Christian theocracy. In the near future, as war rages across the fictional North American Republic of Gilead and pollution has rendered 99 percent of the female population sterile, Kate (Natasha Richardson) sees her husband killed and her daughter kidnapped while trying to escape across the border. Kate herself is transformed into a handmaid -- a surrogate mother for one of the privileged but barren couples who run the country's fundamentalist regime. Although she resists being indoctrinated into the bizarre cult of the handmaids, which mixes Old Testament orthodoxy and misogynist cant with 12-step gospel and ritualized violence, Kate soon finds herself ensconced at the home of the Commander (Robert Duvall) and his frosty wife, Serena Joy (Faye Dunaway). Forced to lie between Serena Joy's legs and be penetrated impersonally each month by the Commander, Kate longs for her vanished earlier life; she soon learns that since many of the nation's powerful men are as sterile as their wives, she may have to risk the punishment for fornication -- death by hanging -- in order to sleep with another man who can provide her with the pregnancy that has become her sole raison d'être. When that other man turns out to be Nick (Aidan Quinn), the Commander's handsome, sympathetic driver, Kate grows attached to him -- and eventually pregnant with his child. Only the mysterious rebel affiliations of her fellow handmaid, Ofglen (Blanche Baker), seem to offer any chance of giving her unborn child a life of freedom -- or finding the daughter she already lost. Loosely adapted by Harold Pinter from the novel by Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale also features Elizabeth McGovern in a small but pivotal role as Moira, a "gender traitor" who befriends Kate at the handmaids' reprogramming center.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Brian J. Dillard
Although it's been criticized for being sterile and unfaithful to its source material, this cautionary tale is actually a pretty smart Orwell-ian update with a feminist twist and a lot of dead-on details. Screenwriter Harold Pinter and director Volker Schlondorff fill The Handmaid's Tale with all sorts of plausible fascist imagery and plenty of moments of paranoid dread. As Kate, the titular baby machine, Natasha Richardson revisits her timorous role in Patty Hearst, expressing normal human emotions like longing and disgust only in tiny snatches, away from prying eyes. Meanwhile, Elizabeth McGovern steals every scene she's in as Moira, a rueful fellow handmaid who frankly announces that she's "a gender traitor -- I like girls" the first time she's introduced. Faye Dunaway and Victoria Tennant both play self-righteous ice queens convincingly, though only Dunaway gets to display any of the (twisted) humanity behind her facade. Meanwhile, Robert Duvall pinches bottoms and acts like any good old boy, albeit one with an army and a religious sect at his beck and call. The romantic subplot between Richardson's character and the sympathetic errand boy played by Aidan Quinn lends a cheesy romance-novel element to the proceedings and results in way too pat of an ending. But The Handmaid's Tale remains compelling because its world is so richly and convincingly rendered. Not exactly light entertainment, the film doesn't provide much visceral horror, either. Instead, it's full of mundane betrayals and everyday hypocrisies -- the kinds that help totalitarian governments rise to power.

Product Details

Release Date:
12/11/2001
UPC:
0027616869296
Original Release:
1990
Rating:
R
Source:
Mgm (Video & Dvd)
Region Code:
1
Presentation:
[Wide Screen]
Sound:
[Dolby Digital, stereo]
Time:
1:49:00

Special Features

Original theatrical trailer; English: stereo surround; English, French & Spanish language subtitles

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Natasha Richardson Kate
Robert Duvall Commander
Faye Dunaway Serena Joy
Aidan Quinn Nick
Elizabeth McGovern Moira
Victoria Tennant Aunt Lydia
Blanche Baker Ofglen
Traci Lind Janine
David Dukes Doctor
Zoey Wilson Aunt Helena
Kathryn Doby Aunt Elizabeth
Lucile Dew McIntyre Rita
Julian Bell TV Announcer
Gary Bullock Officer on bus
Ed Grady Old man
Jim Grimshaw Eye in van
J. Michael Hunter Preacher
James Martin Steve
Tom McGovern Guard #2
Janell McLeod Martha
Bill Owen TV Announcer
Robert Pentz Guard #1
Linda Pierce Another wife
Robert D. Raiford Dick
Reiner Schöne Luke
Muse Watson Guardian

Technical Credits
Volker Schlöndorff Director
Daniel Wilson Producer
Colleen Atwood Costumes/Costume Designer
Igor Luther Cinematographer
Gregory Melton Art Director
Jan Pascale Set Decoration/Design
Harold Pinter Screenwriter
David Ray Editor
Ryuichi Sakamoto Score Composer
Thomas A. Walsh Production Designer
Tom Walsh Production Designer
Danny Wilson Producer
Wolfgang Glattes Producer
Margaret Atwood Source Author

Scene Index

Side #1 --
   Play Movie
   Theatrical Trailer
   Subtitles
      English
      Français
      Español
      Subtitles: None

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