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The Handmaid's Tale DVD


In the not-so-distant future strong-willed and beautiful Kate (Richardson) possesses a precious commodity that most women have lost and most men want to control... fertility. Forced into a brain-washing bootcamp that turns fertile women into surrogate mothers for social-elite men and their infertile wives Kate thinks she's made out well when she's assigned to an eminent party leader (Duvall). But when she learns that he's sterile she's faced with the impossible choice: produce him an heir or die!

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In a future America ruled by extreme Christian Fundamentalists, women have been stripped of their independence and are divided into classes; wives, aunts (spinster domestic workers) and handmaidens - the few women who have not been rendered sterile by pollution, who are placed with couples solely to bear children. Offred (Natasha Richardson) is one of these women, haunted by her past life and child.

  • Average Rating for The Handmaid's Tale [1990] - 4 out of 5

    (based on 1 user reviews)
  • The Handmaid's Tale [1990]
    Kashif Ahmed

    The late / great Natasha Richardson took some time off from theatre in 1990 to star in Volker Schlöndorff's commendably surreal and disturbing adaptation of Margaret Atwood's feminist sci-fi fable. In fascist America; nuclear fallout has rendered 99% of women infertile; the extent of U.S. dystopian megalomania becomes apparent in the Republic Of Gilead; where martial law operates within a matrix of repression enforced by an Orwellian police state. Kate / Ofred (Richardson) is one of a limited number of fertile women; arrested & sold into indentured servitude by the Christian theocracy: Ofred was arrested for trying to cross the border into Canada, a fellow inmate played by Elizabeth McGovern was charged with "gender treachery" (i.e. lesbianism). The prisoners, now dubbed handmaids, are duly informed that they're going to "serve God and their country" as a platoon of heavily armed storm troopers round them up into a bus at gunpoint. Handmaids, who're loaned out to the elite as surrogate sex slaves, are forced to partake in bizarre threesomes with husband & wife in the hope of conceiving a child; Ofred finds herself a slave of none other than the regime's commander (Robert Duvall) and his wife, a former televangelist named Serena Joy (an excellent Faye Dunnaway). Few artists would jump at the chance of playing what's essentially a dehumanised symbol of the state gone wrong, but Natasha Richardson's performance as a semi-robotic servant is comparable only to her scene stealing turn as Mary, Kris Kristofferson's put upon lover in 'Chelsea Walls', for she manages to work within a paradox: silence speaks volumes and profound meaning is conveyed in a few words or subtle gestures. The Republic Of Gilead could allude to many things, though in keeping with themes of misogyny and religious fanaticism, is a nod to Israelite Jephthah son of Gilead, who made a vow to his God in Judges 11:31 that in exchange for victory in war: "Whatever or whoever emerges and comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return from the people of Ammon, shall surely be God's, and I shall sacrifice him/her/it as a holocaust", unfortunately for Jephthah, it was his own daughter who became the sacrifice. Director Volker Schlöndorff ('Death Of A Salesman') brings out the best in a screenplay adapted by Harold Pinter and makes his intentionally unnerving juxtaposition of a warm, fuzzy colour palette with extremely bleak narrative overtones work to brilliant effect. 'The Handmaid's Tale' is more like a filmed play than a movie, and though I don't concur with all of Atwood's understandable, if somewhat oversimplified, grievances; its still an intriguing and highly original picture from a well-written and compelling source. I liked the fact that neither the commander or his wife are portrayed as maniacally evil or deranged, just inflexible, ruthless ideologues who're so enthral to the system as it exists and obsessed with their own legitimate desire for children, that they fail to see the perverse manner in which the government demand they go about it. 'The Handmaid's Tale' is 'A Brave New World' meets 'Rosemary's Baby' with great ensemble performances from the leads and a memorable early role for Adin Quinn, Natasha Richardson's elegance, poise and assured screen presence reminds the viewer of her mother; cinema icon Vanessa Redgrave, for she brings a nuance, depth & humanity to a difficult and demanding role. Not for everyone, but a film unlike any you've ever seen before, or are ever likely to see again.

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